10th Mountain Division marks 60th annual Memorial Day ceremony | VailDaily.com

10th Mountain Division marks 60th annual Memorial Day ceremony

TENNESSEE PASS — The color guard was made up of teenagers from a Canon City high school, representing all the promise that lay ahead. Behind them was a silver-haired former soldier in white 10th Mountain Division gear, representing all the promises kept.

A crowd of more than 250 gathered at the top of Tennessee Pass before the 10th Mountain Division Memorial and the honored names of 999 men who died and thousands of others who fought to keep those promises.

Monday marked the 60th annual 10th Mountain Division Foundation Memorial Day ceremony.

Soldiers Don’t Cry? Yes they do, we learned

Flint Whitlock read the classic “Soldiers Don’t Cry” during Monday’s ceremony, an April 14, 1945 piece from Camp Hale’s newspaper, “The Blizzard.”

We learned that “Soldiers Don’t Cry” made its public debut April 6, 1945, two months before the end of World War II.

We learned that the last line of “Soldiers Don’t Cry” is still true when it admits, “soldiers do cry.” On Monday, several soldiers did.

We learned that when silver-haired former soldiers pull red handkerchiefs from their pockets to dab their eyes, those handkerchiefs create quite a contrast against their green Army uniforms.

Praying for peace

Rev. Jeremiah Harris prayed that we “Remember those who gave their lives so we could live in freedom.” And “that we may understand the ravages of war that we may value the price of peace.”

Past and present 10th Mountain Division soldiers were honored.

David Little, secretary of the 10th Mountain Division Foundation told the crowd about PFC John McGrath, born on July 4th. He was 20 years old during World War II when his unit came under withering Nazi fire. He captured a Nazi machine gun nest with nothing more than his M-1 rifle and amazing valor. He scooped up that machine gun and used it capture two more Nazi machine gun nests and kill several of the enemy. A short time later when his commanders needed a casualty list delivered, McGrath volunteered. Ironically, he died delivering that casualty list. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Today’s 10th honored Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, who died in Afghanistan. More than 50 enemy Taliban fighters ambushed his unit of 14. Pinned down behind some rocks, Monti spotted a wounded comrade in an open area between him and the Taliban. Three times he crawled into the open to try to pull his comrade to safety, getting within 3 feet before machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades exploded all around him forced him back. His third attempt cost him his life, said Sgt. Traighe Rouse with the Scout Platoon, HHC, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.

Beginnings and ends

The national anthem opened the ceremony with the American flag at half staff. Taps ended it with the flag raised to full staff where the blustery Rocky Mountain spring breeze snapped it to attention against the mountains where so many 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained.

Col. Matthew Fitzgerald pointed out in his brief and powerful keynote address that, “We are not a perfect nation, but there is a reason so many want to become Americans.”

“God bless the 10th, God bless all mountain soldiers and God bless the United States of America,” Fitzgerald said.