On
Newsstands
Now
Current Issue
—Courtesy of Alan Bucknam

The Honor Bell Debuts At Fort Logan

A first-of-its-kind bell that honors America’s fallen troops debuts at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

|

More than 1,000 veterans are laid to rest nationally per day. Sadly, a lack of appropriated Department of Defense funding means that some of them are buried without the full military honors required by the National Defense Authorization Act. The Denver-born Honor Bell Foundation wants to help fix that. This month the nonprofit unveils a three-foot-wide bell that can be tolled at funerals when there might otherwise be little formal military display. The 1,000-pound Honor Bell, which is the first of its kind in the country, was made, in part, from melted-down metal artifacts from Colorado veterans. All told, the families of 12 Colorado veterans donated medals, insignia, and other memorabilia from their loved ones. Eventually the Honor Bell Foundation hopes to put such bells, which cost about $50,000 each to make, in every U.S. national cemetery. But the very first one will remain at Fort Logan, the final resting place of more than 100,000 veterans. Here, meet some of the Colorado men whose service is now, quite literally, a part of that bell.


Julian Dracon
1933—2015
Artifact: Navy Commendation Medal

Advertisement

Master chief Julian Dracon travelled all over the world, to places such as Hawaii and Japan, during his 26-year career with the Navy. He earned a bachelors of science degree from the University of Colorado while still in the Navy in 1975. Following his retirement from the Navy, Dracon founded the Navy Lithographers Association and settled in the Denver area.


George “Joe” Sakato
1921–2015
Artifact: Medal of Honor Challenge Coin

An Army combat soldier in World War II, Sakato earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in France in 1944. After one of his best friends died in his arms, Sakato led a one-man charge to help retake an important hill from enemy attackers. When he returned to the United States, he moved to Phoenix before settling in Denver permanently.


Kenneth Melcher
1934—2015
Artifact: Button from Air Force uniform

Advertisement

Kenneth Melcher spent nearly his entire life in the Air Force: He enlisted in 1955 and was stationed, among other places, in Colorado, California, Washington, Florida, Virginia, Iceland, and Japan. In 1978 he retired from Lowry Air Force Base as a chief master sergeant but continued to work for the Air Force as a civilian employee until 1994.


John Toth
1931–2015
Artifact: Division Insignia Pin

During the Korean War, Army Private Toth was taken prisoner by the Chinese on Thanksgiving Day 1950. He escaped shortly thereafter, running through the snow with no shoes, and was later wounded in an ambush at Pyongyang. Post-Korea, Toth raised four children in Arvada with his wife of more than 60 years.


Martin Tanne
1927—2016
Artifact: Purple Heart

Advertisement

Martine Tanne joined in the Merchant Marines hoping to be a radio operator after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but shortly thereafter enlisted in the Army instead. A member of the 34th Infantry Division (or the North African Invasion Force), Tanne earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, and two Bronze Stars, among many others. Following his service, he worked as a salesman in New York before moving to Arvada and founding Martin Meat Company.


Christopher Falkel
1982–2005
Artifacts: Combat Infantry Badge (pictured) and Special Forces Crest

Falkel grew up in Littleton and became a Green Beret in 2003. He was killed in a firefight in southeastern Afghanistan on his first deployment. His father subsequently startedJunior’s Bullet Pens—ballpoint pens made out of 7.62 mm shells—in Falkel’s honor. Falkel, whom his Green Beret teammates calledJunior, had shared his idea for the pens with his dad shortly before he deployed.


Robert Abbott
1942—2006
Artifacts: Coast Guard uniform belt buckle and dog tag

Advertisement

Chief Warrant Officer Robert Abbot spent 24 years the Coast Guard—four on active duty and the next 20 in the Reserves. A radioman in 1964, he was on duty in Anchorage, Alaska, when the massive 9.2 earthquake—the largest recorded in North American history—struck. As a member of the Reserves, he worked on the Mississippi River in St. Louis and Minnesota, and later, in Colorado, at the Green River and Chatfield reservoirs. An avid golfer, Abbott spent many days after his retirement on the fairways of Denver.


Richard Hawkins
1925–2016
Artifacts: American Campaign Medal-World War II, Korean Service Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal and Cuff Links

A machine gunner who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, Richard Hawkins retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant in 1975 before moving to Aurora with his wife, Doris. He’d met Doris, a sergeant in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), in Germany during World War II. But because Doris outranked Richard, they were required to get the Army’s permission before they married.


Charles Adams
1919—1992
Artifact: Army Air Corps Pilot Wings

Advertisement

As a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps (the precursor to today’s Air Force), Charles Adams flew 50 missions in Europe and North Africa during World War II, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. Following his WWII tour, he served as a flight instructor in California. Adams studied petroleum-refining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines after he left the military in 1945 and went on to work for Chevron Corporation for 35 years, until he retired to Perry Park with his wife.


James C. Wickham Jr.
1939–2003
Artifact: E-7 Hat Pin

Wickham spent four years in the Navy and more than 20 in the Coast Guard, including a tour in Vietnam in which he ran missions up rivers that were too small for the Navy’s ships. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1982 and settled in the Denver metro area.


David Bucknam
1944—2004
Artifact: Sharpshooter Badge

Advertisement

David Bucknam grew up exploring Colorado’s great outdoors before he joined the US Army Reserves in 1969. In fact, he even met his wife through the Colorado Mountain Club Juniors. Bucknam spent eight years in the Reserves, while he studied at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Following his graduation Bucknam taught junior high history and geography before moving into what would become a 24-year-long career with the Department of Natural Resources.


Chance Phelps
1984–2004
Artifacts: Marine Corps

Emblem (pictured), Lance Corporal Insignia, and Marine Corps Expert Rifleman BadgePhelps, a Marine who graduated from Colorado’s Palisade High School, was killed when his convoy came under attack near Ramadi, Iraq. The 2009 film Taking Chance captures both Phelps’ story and that of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, who was from Phelps’ hometown of Clifton and escorted the Marine from Dover Air Force Base to his gravesite in Wyoming.

—Courtesy of Alan Bucknam

Advertisement

Robert Abbott
1942—2006
Artifact: Coast Guard uniform belt buckle and dog tag

Chief Warrant Officer Robert Abbot spent 24 years the Coast Guard—four on active duty and the next 20 in the Reserves. A radioman in 1964, he was on duty in Anchorage, Alaska, when the massive 9.2 earthquake—the largest recorded in North American history—struck. As a member of the Reserves, he worked on the Mississippi River in St. Louis and Minnesota, and later, in Colorado, at the Green River and Chatfield reservoirs. An avid golfer, Abbott spent many days after his retirement on the fairways of Denver.


Charles Adams
1919—1992
Artifact: Army Air Corps Pilot Wings

As a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps (the precursor to today’s Air Force), Charles Adams flew 50 missions in Europe and North Africa during World War II, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. Following his WWII tour, he served as a flight instructor in California. Adams studied petroleum-refining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines after he left the military in 1945 and went on to work for Chevron Corporation for 35 years, until he retired to Perry Park with his wife.


David Bucknam
1944—2004
Artifact: Sharpshooter Badge

Advertisement

David Bucknam grew up exploring Colorado’s great outdoors before he joined the US Army Reserves in 1969. In fact, he even met his wife through the Colorado Mountain Club Juniors. Bucknam spent eight years in the Reserves, while he studied at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Following his graduation Bucknam taught junior high history and geography before moving into what would become a 24-year-long career with the Department of Natural Resources.


Julian Dracon
1933—2015
Artifact: Navy Commendation Medal

Master chief Julian Dracon travelled all over the world, to places such as Hawaii and Japan, during his 26-year career with the Navy. He earned a bachelors of science degree from the University of Colorado while still in the Navy in 1975. Following his retirement from the Navy, Dracon founded the Navy Lithographers Association and settled in the Denver area.


Kenneth Melcher
1934—2015
Artifact: Button from Air Force uniform

Kenneth Melcher spent nearly his entire life in the Air Force: He enlisted in 1955 and was stationed, among other places, in Colorado, California, Washington, Florida, Virginia, Iceland, and Japan. In 1978 he retired from Lowry Air Force Base as a chief master sergeant but continued to work for the Air Force as a civilian employee until 1994.

Advertisement

Martin Tanne
1927—2016
Artifact: Purple Heart

Martine Tanne joined in the Merchant Marines hoping to be a radio operator after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but shortly thereafter enlisted in the Army instead. A member of the 34th Infantry Division (or the North African Invasion Force), Tanne earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, and two Bronze Stars, among many others. Following his service, he worked as a salesman in New York before moving to Arvada and founding Martin Meat Company.

Recommended for You

Newsletter Signup

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone. Sign Up