McKay-Dee Hospital is honoring Utah fallen military service members with a display in the main lobby until May 31. The Utah Fallen Service Members Boot Display, created by a local non-profit, Operation Hero, features combat boots with each one representing a Utah service member that has passed away while in service since September 11, 2001. Currently, the display features 240 boots.
Operation Hero was founded by Antionette Stapley in honor of her husband, US Army 1st Sergeant Tracy Stapley, who passed away on July 3, 2013, during deployment in Qatar.
"To continue in his legacy of giving back, I started Operation Hero to give back to organizations that have helped us," Antionette says. "I felt that our state and community needed to be aware of how many service members we’ve lost. Most importantly, the display helps us to remember these brave men and women on Memorial Day and each day.”
Each boot is displayed with an American Flag, branch flag, nametag, and some boots may have a photo. Families have been given the opportunity to write a brief bio about their loved one. Some boots have been personalized by the families with paintings, drawings, pins, and messages.
The Utah boot display began in 2016 at the Hill Air Force Base Air Show. A national boot display includes all 7,600 members that have been lost since 9/11.
“This means a lot,” says retired Sargent Josh Hansen, cofounder of Continue Mission, a local non-profit that helps to improve mental health and prevent suicide among veterans. “I lost six men in our battailian. One of the boots here is a veteran and one of these men. I was his squad leader. It’s difficult and it takes a toll on us.”
Josh recommends that service members register with the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), which offers support, including mental health testing for depression and PTSD. He emphasizes the importance of connection with other veterens and being active outdoors through an organization like Continue Mission. Josh was recently featured in former President George W. Bush’s book “Portraits of Courage.”
“Let’s not forget those that Memorial Day is for those that have fallen for our country,” Josh adds. “They’ve made the ultamite sacrifice for our freedom.