At precisely 11:11 A.M. MST each Veterans Day, the sun shines through a veterans memorial in Anthem, Arizona. The monument is dedicated to those who have and continue to serve in the United States Military.
The memorial was designed by Anthem resident Renee Palmer-Jones. It features five marble pillars to represent the original five branches of the military, ordered in accordance with the Department of Defense‘s prescribed precedence: the US Army, the US Marine Corps, the US Navy, the US Air Force and the US Coast Guard. The US Space Force was not yet in existence at the time of the memorial’s construction.
The pillars are staggered in size, from 17 feet to 6 feet, and have a circle cut out of their center. This ensures that when the sun shines through them on Veterans Day that a solar spotlight appears over a mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States on the ground.
Anthem resident and chief engineer, Jim Martin, was charged with ensuring the pillars aligned accurately with the sun. He shared that this was done with a “fixed azimuth (the horizontal angle from astronomical north to the center of the sun that creates the horizontal illumination of the Great Seal)” and a “fixed altitude angle (the vertical angle for zenith, or horizon, to the center of the sun that creates the vertical illumination of the Great Seal).”
Surrounding the memorial are red stone pavers within what’s known as the Circle of Honor. They are inscribed with the names of 750 service personnel, symbolizing the “support” of the Armed Forces. There are two additional rows of bricks flanking the circle, called “Soldier Rows,” that represent the country’s unbreakable border and the defense US troops offer.
In an additional show of patriotism, the colors of the materials that make up the memorial represent the US flag: the pavers are red; the sky, blue; and the pillars are white.
Construction of the memorial began in 2010, and it was officially revealed to the public on November 11, 2011. While the initial design goal was for the sun to perfectly shine through at 11:11:11 A.M. on Veterans Day, variations each year mean it usually occurs between 11:10:58 A.M. and 11:11:22 A.M.
As well, the leap year discrepancy between the astronomical and official calendars means the effect can be observed either one day before or after Veterans Day on certain years.
A special ceremony to commemorate Veterans Day is held at the Anthem Veterans Memorial every November 11. It also serves as a place of honor and reflection year round from veterans, their friends and family, and all those who wish to pay their respects to those who have and continue to risk their lives for their country.