By Sarah Duerr

A good friend reminded me this weekend that people come in to your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I was never more aware of this notion than when I heard the story of a 23-year-old veteran named Faith Hinkley, who was killed in action in 2010.  I wish I had the privilege of knowing her, even if just for a season, before she was killed by a rocket propelled grenade attack in Iskandariya, Iraq during her first deployment four years ago.

When I first heard about The Faith Hinkley Veterans Memorial Park being designed in Colorado, something told me Faith must have been an amazing person to have a park named after her. The news came to me from Tracy Draper, team captain of Ride Across USA, a charity team of cyclists who are currently riding from California to Florida raising funds and awareness for Hope For The Warriors®. They will be passing through Faith’s hometown of Monte Vista, Colorado this weekend.  While planning their route, Tracy met Sean Noonan of Colorado, without whom the Faith Hinkley Veterans Memorial Park would not be possible. When I spoke to Sean and his crew, he told me the purpose of the park was to honor and remember local veterans who have served.

The Ride Across USA team will ride from CA to FL in 35 days.

Army SPC Faith Hinkley of Colorado Springs was assigned to 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. She was a cheerleader growing up, and from everything I have learned, her enthusiasm for life was contagious. I love meeting people like that! I can only imagine that she lit up a room with her smile when she walked in. Her positive spirit and caring heart must have been a welcomed addition to any battalion she served in.

After spending an hour reading about her on the “Memory of Faith Hinkley Facebook Page”–everything from birthday wishes to requests to be watched over in battle, to hilarious memories of growing up–one posting stood out the most as a reminder of Faith’s legacy.

A friend wrote, “There is a nice memorial wall at the NCO Academy at Ft. Huachucha with Faith’s picture, awards, and biography. When I saw it I figured it was a postcard from Heaven.”

I quickly realized the motivation of the citizens of Monte Vista, Colorado.  Faith was a phenomenal person in her community who brightened the lives of everyone around her. The memorial, statues, landscaping, benches, and lighting will embody her commitment to her country, her love of her family and friends, and give people a place to remember all those who have served and gave all.

Groundbreaking construction for the park is set for June 14 in Monte Vista, Colorado.  The concept and vision of the park is to honor and remember Monte Vista area veterans who have been killed in action. The city of Monte Vista plans to pay tribute to all veterans by welcoming visitors with a safe place to play at Bill Metz Elementary playground. The city also envisions hosting military holidays, farmer’s markets, and other special events to utilize the park as a constant reminder of the sacrifices of young veterans like Faith Hinkley.

Ride Across USA is raising awareness for Hope For The Warriors®.

With 3,000 miles of road to cover in just 35 days, our Ride Across USA team of ten certainly has their work cut out. Riding in the hot days of early summer through the Mojave Desert, they have said it will not compare to what our wounded veterans face on a daily basis. The team strives to show veterans across the country that their nation backs them. Follow this amazing team at www.rideacrossusa.com.

Ride Across USA will be passing near Monte Vista this Saturday, June 14. For more information on the Faith Hinkley Veteran’s Memorial Park, visit www.mvrallyinthevalley.org.

The Ride Across USA Route