Memorial honoring fallen soldiers will be unveiled in Jerome

Idaho fallen soldier unveiling.

JEROME -- Army Sgt. Dan Brown was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan a little over four years ago, but today, his memory lives on.

The Jerome soldier's family had a beautiful clay statue created in his likeness last year. This weekend, his community will honor his life as they unveil and dedicate a new memorial where that statue now stands.

The Sgt. Dan Brown/ Idaho Fallen Soldiers memorial at Gayle Forsyth Park in Jerome was created to honor all Idaho soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq: those who lost their lives, as well as those veterans who made it back safely.

The central panel of the steel memorial reads: "Sgt. Dan Brown Idaho Fallen Soldiers Memorial. This memorial is dedicated to all who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Never forget these brave soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice."

The names are listed chronologically, beginning with the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11.

There are 67 names carved on the memorial, including the name of 27-year-old fallen Army Sgt. Dan Brown.

"That's one thing most soldiers fear is to be forgotten and to not have anyone remember their sacrifice. So hopefully this will help keep Dan in peoples' minds," his father, Jerry Brown, told KTVB.

A sculpture in Sgt. Brown's likeness now stands in the middle of the memorial.

"Dan was such a caring, giving person and that's kind of what I wanted to show in the statue. And not only Dan, lots of soldiers have it. I kind of called the statue "Heart of a Soldier" and because that's what I believe most soldiers have is that heart of caring," Brown said.

Jerry built the memorial out of steel, and sculptor Lena Toritch of Young Fine Art Studio in Salt Lake City created the beautiful, intricate statue of his son last year. He says the statue cost around $50,000 but they were able to raise money to pay for it through GoFundMe and other fundraisers.

However with the memorial project, Brown says he didn't raise that much money, and used a lot of his own to create it.

Jerry wanted to pay tribute to his son in Forsyth Park near Dan's childhood home as a monument for kids, especially, to interact with.

"I wanted a place where kids can be able to see the statue and see this and to start asking questions about our soldiers and about their sacrifices," Brown said. "Every name up there would want the same thing."

In the moment the sculptor captured Sgt. Brown's likeness for this statue, he is high-fiving an Afghan child.

"[He] loved kids and tried to deal with them every time he could when he was out on patrol as much as possible," Brown told KTVB. "They are over there fighting for this little boy's life, basically, to give them a better life too, not just for our freedoms here at home."

He has two children of his own - twin daughters born three months before he was killed. He was never able to hold them.

"At least the Lord did bless us with a grandchild before he took Dan home," Brown said.

His little girls saw their dad in clay last year, but when their grandpa showed them a picture of the statue cast in Bronze, he says they went wild.

MORE FROM NBCHero's Welcome: Memorial unveiled in honor of Sgt. Dan Brown

"They were saying... 'Wake up daddy, wake up daddy,' which was pretty tough to watch," Brown said.

While Dan's memory lives on in the park, it continues to live on in the hearts of all of those who love him.

"I wear this hat in honor of him every day," Jerry said. "I've always got Dan with me."

This memorial and the statue will be unveiled together as one on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m. at Gayle Forsyth Park in Jerome. The ceremony is also in honor of Veterans Day, and is to salute everyone who has made that ultimate sacrifice.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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