Published: April 20, 2014
Fort Carson officials have decided to add a more permanent memorial to troops killed in combat.
The post now has stone memorials carrying the nearly 400 names of local troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those may last only a few thousand years before the granite is weathered away.
The new memorial is made of different stuff.
"By our estimates, it should last for 5 billion years," said Patricia Randle, director of Fort Carson's Army Community Service Office.
In the night sky, deep in the constellation Puppis is the newly-named "Fallen Heroes Star."
Randle came up with the idea to name a star in memorial to troops and registered the name through the commercial International Star Registry.
The naming carries little value with astronomers, who refer to most of the billions of stars in the cosmos through a numbering system. But Randle says that for families missing a fallen loved one, having a point to remember in the southern sky has deep meaning.
"We wanted to do something that was a lasting tribute that would hopefully let our surviving families know there is something they could look at, rather than just another ceremony," Randle said.
Randle's office works with families of fallen troops in a five-state area. She informed them, by email and on social media, of the star.
One thing Randle learned: Many families were looking at the night sky to commune with the one they had lost.
"That's the way they connected," she said.
The newly named star was unveiled with a ceremony at the Air Force Academy's observatory.
It's not the brightest in the sky, nor the easiest to locate, but it's there, and will twinkle in mourning for generations.
And families can look up.
"They are really touched by this star being named," Randle said.