The Anthem Veterans Memorial is considered a treasured place in the community of Anthem, Arizona. As a tribute to members of the armed forces, it’s stunning all year round. But there’s one particular moment each year when it becomes even more special.
Anthem is a community within Maricopa County in Arizona. As of 2014, it had a population of around 30,000 people. It’s made up of close to 6,000 acres and is located close to the state capital of Phoenix.
In particular, it’s a popular place of residence for families and was established by the Del Webb construction company in the late 1990s. Anthem also has a community center that caters for a wide range of activities, and in 2011 the community dedicated a memorial to veterans.
The Anthem Community Council sponsored the monument with the help of funding from members of the public. According to a plaque beside it, the memorial was created “to honor veterans of the United States armed services.” It was designed by Renee Palmer-Jones, who lives in the town.
Palmer-Jones created five white marble pillars that signify the U.S. military’s five branches. They’re arranged in the order of precedence as dictated by the Department of Defense: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. And that’s not the only symbolism contained within the monument.
The columns range in height from 6 to 17 feet and are surrounded by a ring of red bricks that’s referred to as the Circle of Honor and signifies indestructibility. And upon closer inspection, there’s an intriguing detail on some of the 1,750 pavers: they’re engraved with the names of men and women in the American armed forces.
This is a symbolic reference to the support that veterans and those currently serving their country receive back home. Together, the red bricks, white pillars and blue sky represent the red, white and blue of the American flag. And on the ground in front of the memorial in Community Park is a mosaic depicting the Great Seal of the United States.
The monument stands beside the Star-Spangled Banner and is accompanied by five benches. Visitors are encouraged to use their time there to pay tribute to members of the United States military. “It is a place of honor and reflection for veterans, their family and friends, and also is a place to show respect to those service men and women who have and continue to courageously serve our county,” the Anthem Community Council website states.
A planning committee organized the construction of the monument with another local, Jim Martin, serving as the head engineer. It was built in mid-2011 by the Haydon Building Corporation, and the results were unveiled on November 11, 2011.
World War One lasted for four years from 1914 and caused the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians. An armistice with Germany finally brought an end to the conflict in 1918 at 11:00 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. Armistice Day was celebrated for the first time in 1919, and in 1954 the United States changed its name to Veterans Day.
So it was on Veterans Day in 2011 that the memorial was dedicated with a special ceremony. Many members of the community attended along with military personnel. And as the clock struck 11:11 a.m., the public were finally able to see its true beauty for the first time.
The monument was designed to become complete at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. At this point, the sun hits the pillars to cast a shadow that perfectly frames the Great Seal of the United States. The light travels through elliptical metal loops on each of the five columns to create the spotlight effect.
It’s an incredible sight, but one that only happens once a year. And the moment of its dedication was even more special – because it also took place on the eleventh year of the new millennium. The effect had needed to be carefully calculated by engineer Jim Martin.
However, it was no simple task. “When planning the geometry of the Anthem Veterans Memorial, it was clear that the static nature of the structure would require a fixed azimuth – the horizontal angle from astronomical north to the center of the sun on Nov. 11 at 11:11 a.m. that creates the horizontal illumination of the Great Seal,” Martin said in an interview with Anthem Community Council.
Although it’s considered an amazing achievement, Martin is quick to point out that the spotlight is not entirely flawless. That’s because there are tiny changes in the sun’s position each year. As a result, Martin created the structure so that between 2011 and 2111, the sun will perfectly illuminate the Great Seal sometime within a 24-second period that’s as close to 11:11:11 a.m. as possible.
And Martin constructed the “spotlight” so that the memorial could be functioning several centuries from now. “We also checked the variance 500 years out, and if the structure is still standing, it will work,” he explained.
“In complete truth, it is not perfect,” Martin continued. “The only way to do that would be to move the ellipses very slightly each year, which is really not a recommended option.” Despite these very slight imperfections, the monument has still been copyrighted by Anthem City Council and Palmer-Jones to prevent it from being replicated elsewhere. It’s also a state historical site and has won multiple awards.
The Anthem Veterans Memorial has drawn comparisons to Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument that was established in alignment with the sunrise of the summer solstice and the sunset of the winter solstice. The Abu Simbel temple in Egypt are also thought to have been built in line with the movements of the sun. Tourists gather biannually to watch as the sculptures inside the temple are lit up by the sun’s rays.
Now, a special Veterans Day service is held each year when the Anthem Veterans Memorial can be seen in all its glory. Members of the public can buy a brick within the Circle of Honor as a tribute to someone in the Armed Forces, or one beyond the circle to offer their general support. And it’s clear that some people are in awe of the memorial and its intriguing design.
“I vote this the most amazing monument the world!” one YouTube commenter wrote. Another added, “This is very heart touching and inspiring. God bless Anthem, Arizona. I hope to travel here just to be close to such an awesome dedication to the Veterans.”