EDWARDS, Colorado - Just after 4 p.m. Monday, Memorial Day was made clear.
As Rev. Sid Spain, a retired Navy Chaplain, gave the opening prayer for the annual Memorial Day ceremony, a fire broke out in an Avon condo complex. The black plume of smoke shot into the blue afternoon sky, and radios squawked to life.
Law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters quietly bolted from Freedom Park and ran for their vehicles, doing what they've been trained to do - run headlong into bad trouble, answering a call to help and serve while everyone else wondered what was happening.
And there it was, Memorial Day in a moment - you're called, you go. You worry about danger and sacrifice later.
"It's a beautiful day in Eagle County to share a few minutes honoring what this day is really about," said Pat Hammon, with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, as the smoke rose and heads bowed to honor those for whom Memorial Day was designated.
Hammon read President Obama's proclamation. It talked about duty and honor.
"On Memorial Day, we honor those who have paid the greatest cost," Hammon read.
Battle Mountain High School students sang the national anthem, Boy Scouts from Troop 222 in Eagle helped with the color guard and other duties, including ringing the bell each time the name of a service member or emergency responder who died in the line of duty was read.
"I spent most of my life with a military ID in my pocket," Spain said.
"Our men and women in uniform, whatever they do they do with distinction. They'll fight with courage that defies the imagination."
Ask the world about Americans in World War II, about the Devil Dogs of World War I and Seal Team 6, Spain said.
They fight for their country, but they also fight for their buddies, he said.
"They do not want to go to war," Spain said. "Those who go to war know the realities of war."
Monday's ceremony was a time to thank them more than we used to, as we should, Spain said.
"Unlike our brothers who served in Vietnam, veterans come home to a grateful nation," Spain said. "Unlike many nations, we have become verbally thankful."
There are many ways to honor our veterans, Spain said.
"Most especially, we honor them when we endeavor to become the nation worthy of what we're asking them to do," Spain said.
Spain spoke disdainfully about those who call themselves leaders who never served, yet engage in needless saber rattling, who seem so willing to send others to war.
He implored the crowd to elect leaders who know the cost of war and the cost of peace.
"War is not a first resort. War is a last resort," he said.
Hammon spoke reverently and with sensitivity to the surviving families of those who have paid the cost of freedom in the lives of their sons and daughters.
She singled out the two World War II veterans on hand, Herb Rubenstein with the 89th Infantry in Europe and Sandy Treat with the 10th Mountain Division.
Then, gathered between the flag flying at half mast and the Pentagon limestone that was blown out of the Pentagon during the 9/11 terrorist attack, a group of local veterans read the names of Eagle County's dead from each of America's wars. As they did, Boy Scouts from Troop 222 stood at attention and rang a bell for each one.
When they finished, retired Capt. Gary Thornton and Collin Idzikowski, of Battle Mountain High School, played "Taps." When they finished, the Boy Scouts raised the flag to full staff, where a spring breeze caught it and snapped it to full furl, where it waved above the crowd.
And with that, Hammon sent the crowd away exactly as they were meant to live.
"Go in peace," she said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.