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Recognizing Veterans

More than 20,000 veterans call Douglas County home, with the majority having served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, or post-Gulf War conflicts (2002–present). With its proximity to military bases and adventurous outdoor lifestyle, Jarold Wildman, current chair of the Douglas County Veterans Memorial Fund (DCVMF), said the area attracts many veterans who got a taste of what Colorado offers during military training and decided to return.

Wildman, a Colorado native, grew up in Evergreen and served two Middle East deployments with the Navy from 1994 to 1998 as a Damage Controlman, where he trained in firefighting, ship stability, and chemical, radiological, and biological warfare defense.

For Wildman, the Navy was a path to his life’s purpose—fighting fires. Coming from a long line of firefighters, his passion for putting out wildfires began as a young child and never wavered.

But when he graduated from high school in 1994, you could only be a firefighter once you were 21. So he joined the Navy—the only branch of service that could guarantee firefighting training and experience. Soon, he found himself onboard the USS Ingersoll stationed out of Pearl Harbor, HI. 

The lessons he learned in those four years remain close to his heart almost two decades later, and he's dedicated to serving fellow veterans and helping them in whatever way he can.

As chair of DCVMF, Wildman oversees the organization's Veteran's Assistance Grant Program, providing much-needed financial assistance to local veterans needing a "hand up."

While he acknowledges many government and non-profit programs offer resources to veterans, his organization hopes to step in where those services fall short. Veterans can apply online for a once-per-lifetime Veterans Assistance Grant of up to $2,000.

"It could be as simple as helping someone with a car repair or an electric bill," said Wildman. “The goal is to prevent a minor bill from spiraling into something financially devastating.”

Wildman’s leadership has also helped make DCVMF's golf tournament fundraiser a huge success. The annual event raises money that goes directly to providing grants and maintaining the veteran's monument at Veteran's Corner in downtown Castle Rock.

The bronze statue, named Freedoms Keeper, cost more than $100,000 to design and build and sits atop a 5-foot granite pedestal displaying each of the six service seals. According to DCVMF, "The colorful stones in the wall that hold each of the service flags and the POW flag are from the Historic Courthouse that burned down in 1978."

Wildman said he wants people to know Freedoms Keeper isn't a memorial. It's a monument dedicated to the past, present, and future.

DCVMF's last mission is to expand veteran outreach and raise awareness in the community around issues that affect this patriotic group of citizens. Its most prominent event is the annual golf tournament held during Armed Forces Week.

Its second-largest event is VetFest in downtown Castle Rock each July (this year, on July 8) with food trucks, live music, a 5K run and walk, artists, and vendors.

Wildman said the group is always looking for volunteers, especially those with marketing, bookkeeping, administration, or grant-writing skills. “You don’t need to be a veteran. Just come with a heart ready to serve.”

"It could be as simple as helping someone with a car repair or an electric bill. The goal is to prevent a minor bill from spiraling into something financially devastating." —Jarold Wildman