On Friday, January 4, 2019, a long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony was held on the lawn of the Civic Center in Los Gatos for the Flame of Liberty Veterans Memorial. Attended by town dignitaries, residents, members of the military, police force, Santa Clara County Fire Department, CEOs, and a numerous members of the press, this event signified a major milestone for the Flame of Liberty Veterans Memorial project that has been in the works for well over six years.
The memorial is spearheaded by the Veterans Memorial & Support Foundation of Los Gatos (VMSF), which was founded in 2012 and just opened a public office space on the corner of Main Street across from Icing on the Cake. The nonprofit was formed to honor and support United States Military service members, veterans, and their families.
The initial focus of the organization is to “erect a world-class veterans memorial in the heart of the Town of Los Gatos.” The Los Gatos Town Council approved the conceptual design in June of 2016, and the permits for the project were finally issued on December 21, 2018. The January 4th groundbreaking was the kickoff of the project’s construction, with a target completion by Memorial Day 2019.
The monument and the public space surrounding it will pay tribute to those who have served our country in each of the six branches of the military. It will also honor emergency first responders as well as the heroes of 9/11, one of which was Los Gatos resident, Mark Bingham, who helped stop the hijacking of Flight 93. Mark’s mother, Alice, stills lives in the Los Gatos mountains and has been an outspoken activist ever since.
Inspired by the flame the burns brightly in the Statue of Liberty’s torch, the centerpiece of the monument is an eternal flame created from metal and glass. Created by Frank Kocial Morris, renowned portrait artist, illustrator, and Master Designer for the United States Mint, the flame will be constructed from a “thin, steel wire frame, with sections filled with transparent, champagne-colored hand-poured antique glass evoking the style of a lighthouse lantern or a stained-glass window.” Within the flame will be the “Soldier’s Cross,” a symbol representing the service and ultimate sacrifice of America’s Fallen military members. Surrounded by the Civic Center grove of redwoods, the flame will be illuminated at night.
According to a press release from the VMSF, Mr. Morris’s design clients include Newsweek, New York Magazine, Boy’s Life, Readers Digest, Bantam Books, Dell Books, Simon & Schuster, New American Library, Warner Brothers, Random House, Vintage Books, multiple major television networks and advertising agencies. His paintings are in private collections and board rooms and have been reproduced in magazines such as Newsweek and New York Magazine where he was asked to paint luminaries such as Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Rosalynn Carter, Hamilton Jordan, the Shah of Iran and government dignitaries from his home state of Tennessee. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recognized Mr. Morris’ excellence and chose Mr. Morris for the artist-elite position of Master Designer for the U.S. Mint. He has designed three Congressional Gold Medals to honor the Native American Code-Talkers of WWII and multiple gold collector coins. Finally, what better person to create a design for veterans than that of a veteran himself—Mr. Morris served in the U.S. Air Force early on in his career.
The monument is being created at the artist’s home in Memphis and will be transported to Los Gatos when completed. Surrounding the monument will be public space that includes a fountain, public art, along with inscribed bricks and pavers dedicated to local veterans and heroes. Los Gatos architect, Patrick Flanders, will be integral in the creation of the elements and areas adjoining the Flame of Liberty.
The Veterans Memorial Foundation of Los Gatos needs to raise upwards of $2.5 million to fund the project as well as programs that will support veterans. Donors bricks and pavers can be purchased for between $250 and $1,000. For more information on donor bricks, contact the foundation. Donations are also accepted on the VMSF website.