Veterans, families gather to celebrate Memorial Day | PostIndependent.com

Veterans, families gather to celebrate Memorial Day

Megan Webber
Post Independent intern

Memorial Day in Glenwood Springs began and ended with the sound of 124 motorcycles roaring through Rosebud Cemetery.

Since the group’s beginning four years ago, the Western Slope Memorial Day Riders have grown from 16 bikes to 124. The riders parade each year from Bair Ranch to Rifle, where they end the holiday with a cookout at the Colorado State Veterans Home.

“If it wasn’t for the veterans, none of us would have jobs or probably anything else, you know, we wouldn’t have a life. It’s because of them that we have our freedom, and we just do it because we wanna show our respect to them,” said F.C. Dobbs, who started the Western Slope Memorial Day Riders organization.

Glenwood locals of all ages covered the cemetery during prayers, songs, speeches and traditions like the raising of the flag and the 21-gun salute. The Memorial Day address was given by Cadet Lt. Col. Avery Justice, who will graduate this year from Glenwood Springs High School and go on to join the United States Air Force.

“Memorial Day, it’s a day to remember those who have fallen and served our country,” Justice said. “Basically, those who have sacrificed their life in the line of duty, but also, we still acknowledge those who are still serving.”

In his address, Justice recounted how all through high school, he knew he wanted to make the military a part of his life so that he could go on to protect others from those who wish our nation harm. He eventually decided during his senior year to pursue the Air Force with the hope of giving back to fallen veterans.

“Service is not just about the pay, or the free education the military has to offer. It’s much more than benefits and glory. It’s about giving back to those who gave, and doing our part for future generations, so that they might continue to live free, at peace and possibly one day take part in serving his or her own country,” Justice said.

The crowd also heard from Greg Bak of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition. Bak invited the community’s veterans to get involved with the Glenwood Springs Veterans Resource Center, which celebrates brotherhood and sisterhood between veterans and provides support for those in need.

“As veterans, we all have to stick together. We were brothers and sisters in the fleet, in the field, in the air, and we’re still brothers and sisters,” he said.

The Veterans Resource Center is dedicated to providing assistance to veterans financially, but also to creating a safe place among comrades for those who have served. The center started when a Glenwood local returned home from serving and died shortly after, leaving a family of veterans in grief. The center’s No. 1 goal, Bak said, is to make sure that a situation like that does not arise again.

The ceremony was a time for honor and remembrance, but for each individual, it tugs at the hearts a little differently. Glenwood resident Jeremiah Ritter brought his family to the ceremony for the first time this year.

“We had family serve in Vietnam, so it’s to honor them,” he said. “My son’s godfather was in Vietnam, and he also worked in this cemetery.”

While Memorial Day each spring and Veterans Day in November are the official days to honor those who have died and those still living who have served, the remembrance doesn’t have to end with those days. The Veterans Resource Center holds meetings every Thursday in downtown Glenwood, and the Western Slope Memorial Day Riders can be found on Facebook by searching their name.