×
×
homepage logo

Local group honors Utah’s fallen military members and aids their survivors

By Mark Shenefelt standard-Examiner - | May 31, 2021
1 / 7

Antionette Stapley, founder of Operation Hero, speaks to a veteran on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington at the group's display of combat boots commemorating fallen Utah service members.

2 / 7

Antionette Stapley, founder of Operation Hero, poses for a portrait on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington at the group's display of combat boots commemorating fallen Utah service members. She is standing between her late husband's uniform and a photo of him. First Sgt. Tracy L. Stapley, 44, died July 3, 2013, while deployed in Qatar.

3 / 7

Operation Hero's event on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington, featured a display of combat boots commemorating fallen Utah service members.

4 / 7

Operation Hero's event on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington, featured a display of combat boots commemorating fallen Utah service members.

5 / 7

Operation Hero's event on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington, featured a display of 1st Sgt. Tracy Stapley's uniform, portrait and, toward the rear, his son Trace's West Point cadet uniform.

6 / 7

Operation Hero's event on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington, featued a display of "The Fallen Soldier's Table," commemorating fallen Utah service members.

7 / 7

Visitors look at displays at Operation Hero's event on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Farmington commemorating fallen Utah service members.

FARMINGTON — Hundreds of combat boots, arrayed in military precision and decorated with stories and photos of their fallen owners, drew reverent study on Memorial Day as a local family continued its mission of keeping service members’ memories alive.

Antionette Stapley, of Hooper, created the nonprofit group Operation Hero in honor of her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Tracy L. Stapley, 44, who died while deployed in Qatar on July 3, 2013.

The Stapleys’ son, Trace, was a West Point cadet when his father died. He’s now an Army captain flying Apache helicopters. Their daughter, Kennedy, just turned 18.

Antionette Stapley said Monday she and her children try to see that the father’s contributions and sacrifices remain recognized. They do so by their work helping to honor hundreds of other Utah service members who have died since Sept. 11, 2001.

The Stapleys mentor others who have lost loved ones in the service and “help them learn to cope,” Antionette Stapley said.

Operation Hero displayed the combat boots and other memorabilia of the fallen over the holiday weekend at Station Park in Farmington.

Stapley said Operation Hero’s major annual event is the Memorial Day display. Monday’s twin events were in Farmington and Riverton.

About 300 military personnel from Utah have died while serving since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Stapley said. Those who served the nation “with the ultimate sacrifice,” like her husband, deserve continuing recognition, she said.

“We wanted to continue his legacy of giving back, just like he would do,” Stapley said. “He would pull over on the side of the road and help anyone.”

Families are able to decorate the boots with stories, photos and other mementos of their loved ones. Stapley said many of the boots were those owned by the fallen personnel; others have been donated to the nonprofit.

Operation Hero helps Gold Star families in Utah and supports organizations such as Utah Survivor Outreach Services, Gary Sinise Foundation, Gold Star Teen Adventures, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors) and the American Widow Project.

Visitors on Monday were examining the boots and learning about the Utahns lost. They mingled around displays of uniforms, flags and other presentations.

Tim Pulley of Salt Lake City said he drove to Farmington to see the boots because he thought it was “a really cool” way of honoring the fallen.

Pulley said his father was an Army veteran.

Stapley spent some time talking to a Vietnam veteran who sat in a chair at the front of the boots display, and she circulated through the room, answering questions posed by visitors.

It’s been eight years since her husband’s passing. “But it’s still fresh,” she said. “What we can do is tell people who he was” and help other families honor their dead.

Newsletter

Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)