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South Valley Journal

Fallen heroes memorial coming to Riverton

May 05, 2021 09:04AM ● By Catherine Garrett

More than 300 fallen Utah soldiers who have died in uniform since 9/11 are honored with a traveling boot memorial by Operation Hero. (Photos courtesy Antoinette Stapley.)

By Catherine Garrett | c.garrett[email protected]

What began as a tribute to her fallen husband has become much more. So much more. 

In 2016, Antoinette Stapley created Operation Hero to help remember 1SG Tracy Stapley who died July 3, 2013, in Qatar. The organization has evolved from a 5K event and fundraisers and includes a traveling memorial that honors more than 300 fallen Utah service members who have passed away in uniform since 9/11 with a decorated boot. From May 28–31, that memorial will be showcased at Mountain View Village, located at 13400 South 4500 West in Riverton.

Tracy Stapley, who was described as “very patriotic” by his wife, served for 26 years in the military until he completed his life at the age of 44. “He was known for giving back and helping others,” Antoinette Stapley said. 

From the day she answered the door five years ago to two uniformed officers informing her of her husband’s death, she and her two children—son Trace, who is now a U.S. Army Apache pilot, and daughter Kennedy—navigated a path that was foreign to her. Much of what her organization aims to accomplish is to help other military families understand the resources that are available to them as they also move forward in their own uncharted territory. 

Operation Hero has a threefold purpose. 

With “Giving Back,” funds are raised through the various events to help families. In the past five years, more than $11,000 has been given to surviving families and other similar organizations. 

In “Educating,” Stapley has made efforts to assist 3,000 families with “preparing for the unexpected.” 

“We want service members and families to know more about what I feel I should have known and what to pay attention to as a spouse,” Stapley said. “We also want to help them make sure their documents are updated before service members are deployed.”

With “Honoring,” Stapley aims to make sure these service members are remembered by name and individual tributes. “We honor all of them,” she said. “We don’t spotlight just my husband; his boot is not front and center. We want people to know and remember the amazing stories and take time to remember them.”

As the organization is completely volunteer-based, help is needed in various ways for the upcoming boot memorial. Stapley said she is always looking for combat boot donations, uniforms to display, sponsors and any donations for online and in-person silent auctions and opportunity drawings. Volunteers are also being sought for set up and take down as well as while the display is up for the viewing public. 

For more information, visit www.operationheroes.org, OperationHeroTracy on Facebook, operation hero on Instagram, call 801-940-6852 or email [email protected] or [email protected].

“Each of these service members is a hero,” Stapley said. “It doesn’t matter how they died. If they died in uniform they have a boot.”