GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Angela Black learned early on in life about the significance of Memorial Day, and that the American flags she spent many years helping to place at the graves of those who served in the military are more than just a special marking.
They’re a symbol of “respect, reverence, honor and gratitude,” said Black, who has been a part of the Memorial Day service in Glenwood Springs since she was a little girl reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the annual event in Rosebud Cemetery.
“It’s become a big part of who I am,” she said during Monday’s ceremony, attended by more than 150 people under clear blue skies, a slight chill from the weekend rainstorms still in the air.
On those long days as a child working with other volunteers to place the flags beside the gravestones, Black said she also learned about “reverence, solemnity and gratitude.”
“Make no mistake about it, this day is so important,” she said. “Memorial Day is not about Republicans or Democrats, or politics or policies, it’s only about gratitude … and simply about saying ‘thank you.’”
The traditional ceremony was led by American Legion Post 83 member Dan E. LeVan, who offered a special remembrance to two area veteran servicemen who passed away during the last year, Desmond Harris and Jesse Beckius.
VFW and American Legion auxiliary members Mildred Alsdorf and Pat LeVan (Dan’s mother) laid the ceremonial wreaths at the Veterans’ Memorial stone and Boy Scout Troop 225 lowered the flags to half staff, while soon-to-graduate Glenwood Springs High School seniors Jade Cluff and Madison Melia sang the national anthem.
Giving the Memorial Day address was one of the last living World War II veterans in Glenwood Springs, Navy veteran Lyle Beattie, who gave a brief history of the national commemoration.
What started as “Decoration Day” in 1868 to honor those who had died in the Civil War officially became Memorial Day in 1882. That was followed by Congress’ formal declaration of the last Monday in May as the official Memorial Day holiday in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War.
“Today, we are here to remember all of those who have died,” Beattie said, relating that all of the veterans up through World War I have now passed on, and his fellow World War II vets are dying off at a rate of 700 a day.
Beattie told the story from a couple of years ago when Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the East Coast and the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., was potentially in danger.
“The guardsman were asked if they would stay and keep watch, and to a man they said, ‘We will do our duty,’” Beattie related. “That is one of the finest examples of duty you will see, to stand over the fallen, and it serves as an example to us here today.”
The ceremony concluded with the benediction given by the Rev. Bert Chilson from St. Stephen Catholic Church, a rendition of “Amazing Grace” sung by Catherine Zimney, a 21-gun salute by members of the American Legion Post 83, and the playing of taps by Norm Gould.