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Memorial Day’s meaning not lost on vets

Greg Masse
Staff Writer

A three-gun salute blazed from beneath a bright, sunny and peaceful sky Monday. The shots were fired in remembrance of those who couldn’t be there.

That was just part of a small but inspiring Memorial Day ceremony held each year at Glenwood Springs’ Rosebud Cemetery to remember those who died for their country.

In other places throughout the valley, some sizzled burgers on barbecues, some sat on the couch to enjoy the all-day sports schedule on TV and others planned out summertime trips during the unofficial first weekend of summer.

With those things and everything else that goes on, it’s easy to forget just what Memorial Day is all about.

But there are some who will never forget.

“You remember veterans who have passed on,” said Jerry Olp, a member of the American Legion Garfield Post 83 honor guard. “During the rest of the year, you may not remember them, but during Memorial Day you remember them.”

The memorial ceremony, organized by Post 83, began at 11 a.m. with a prayer. It was attended by people of all ages, and in all directions small flags and bouquets of flowers could be seen being gently blown by the light breeze.

“It’s always good,” retired Navy Commander Rick Jones said of the ceremony. “Being part of the service you get a comradeship and it’s kind of a fraternity – and a sorority I guess these days.”

After the opening benediction, members of Boy Scout Troop 225 lowered the American flag at the cemetery, then raised it to half-mast to remember the fallen.

Just in front of the flagpole, a rifle was stuck in the ground by its muzzle and there was a green army helmet on it, just another reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought.

The Gettysburg Address was read so those attending the service could recall those famous words said by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Its reader reminded those present at the ceremony that Lincoln’s words are as true today as they were in the 1800s and he also said that the events of Sept. 11 and the subsequent war against terrorism give Memorial Day even stronger meaning this year.

Also, Garfield County Commissioner John Martin read “Hymn to the Flag” from the book “John Martin’s Big Book for Young People.”

“That was read to me when I was 6 to 7 years old,” he said.

Eighth-grade teacher Dan LeVan said his students have always read about past wars and knew the basics of what Memorial Day is all about, but the past year’s events have made everything much more tangible for them.

“It hit home, I think,” LeVan said. “It was a lot of talk and a lot of history, but now it’s real.”

Garfield American Legion Post Commander Bill Price, a veteran of the Korean War, said he was pleased with the ceremony.

“I thought it went real well,” he said.

As part of the weekend, members of the Legion post, along with members of the Rotary Club, placed more than 500 small American flags near veterans’ grave markers on Friday evening.

“There are a lot of them who are friends and members of the post,” Price said. “A lot of them don’t have any relatives and don’t have any family.”

And while there has been a small increase in the number of people who attend the service since it began in the mid-1980s, Jones said he was surprised that a lot more people didn’t show up this year. About 35 people attended.

“We all appreciate the people who show up out here, but with a year when so many things have happened, we were amazed there were so few people,” Jones said. “For a town this size, we would have thought there would be at least 100 people.”

Similarly, Price said the number of American Legion members is declining. Some are dying off, while others who are eligible simply aren’t joining. Either way, they’re not being replaced.

“Our post is dwindling down and we can’t get people to join,” he said.

Price and other members of the post will set up a booth at Strawberry Days to try and recruit new members.


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