Honoring real heroes in a virtual ceremony on Memorial Day | VailDaily.com
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Honoring real heroes in a virtual ceremony on Memorial Day

Vail Valley VFW Post hosts annual Memorial Day ceremony to be broadcast Monday afternoon

Virtual Memorial Day Ceremony
  • When: 4 p.m.
  • Information: The video program may be viewed on the Eagle County's Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/eaglecounty, on Eagle County Television at ecgtv.com/live and on cable channel 18 where it will repeat during the evening.
  • The Freedom Park Memorial Committee and VFW Post 10721 will conduct its 16th annual Memorial Day ceremony honoring all military veterans, especially those from Eagle County who paid the ultimate price for America’s freedom. The program will be recorded Monday morning to be broadcast Monday afternoon.
  • The program will include an address by Claire Noble, US Air Force, Rabbi Joel Newman, retired US Navy Chaplain. Eagle Valley High School’s Caroline Dewell and Tanner Essex will sing the national anthem and the names of fallen heroes will be read by Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, David Witt, a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek.

As Boy Scouts from around Eagle County planted flags by the gravestones of local military veterans, they reverently placed a flag, stepped back, read the name on the grave marker aloud and saluted.

Mike Ross is an Army veteran working with Troop 231. In the Red Cliff cemetery, the scouts found a Spanish-American War veteran.

“It’s important to give our veterans the respect they deserve, especially the ones who died in action,” said Ross, one of Troop 231’s leaders. “Of all the service projects we do each year, this is my favorite.”

Heroes walk among us

It’s one thing to commit to rote memory the names, dates and political climates of wars. It’s quite another to meet those who fought, killed and almost died — and who have the scars and Purple Hearts to prove it. Monday’s Memorial Day services are one of those rare opportunities.

Patricia Hammond was an Army nurse in Vietnam. Pete Thompson can tell you what it’s like to fight through the jungles.

Mack McMakin flew bombers in World War II while he was still a teenager. Tom Trotter flew fighter jets for the Navy and commanded its Top Gun school. Dave Schneider was a teenager fighting in Vietnam.

Kent Lambrecht runs Vail Valley Pharmacy. During his service he learned that the military is a microcosm of the world, filled with both achievers and slackers. Lambrecht learned to surround himself with achievers.

“Surround yourself with good people,” Lambrecht said. “Someone always has your back.”

Gary Thornton graduated the Coast Guard Academy and spent 30 years in the Coast Guard, serving during both war and peace.

John Horan-Kates was born the day World War II ended. He graduated Wayne State University in 1967, as the Vietnam War was being beamed into living rooms around America. He joined the Navy.

“We didn’t know then what we know now. We knew our country was at war, and I wanted to serve,” Horan-Kates said.

Eventually, Horan-Kates landed in the Vail Ski Company’s marketing department where he coined the term, “Vail Valley.”

It was 75 years ago that heroes like Bill “Sarge” Brown, Bob Parker, Pete Seibert, Sandy Treat, Dick Over, Hugh Evans and so many others from the 10th Mountain Division literally climbed to one of history’s most miraculous military victories, the Battle of Riva Ridge, Feb. 18, 1945. Many of them also helped found Vail and dozens of other ski areas around the U.S.

Solid as Pentagon limestone

Air Force Col. Buddy Sims will be in full uniform Monday in Freedom Park, explaining how a 700-pound block of Indiana limestone blasted from the walls of the Pentagon on 9/11 came to live in Edwards.

Not long after 9/11, a couple dozen members of the local VFW Post met in Bob’s restaurant in Avon, asking, “What can we do to help America?” That’s not a rhetorical question for these people.

Sims, a decorated bomber pilot from the Vietnam era, was called back to active duty after 9/11, stationed in Saudi Arabia..

When he returned stateside he was assigned to the Pentagon, where then-Eagle County Commissioners Tom Stone, Michael Gallagher and Arn Menconi came for a visit. During a tour of the five-sided building, Sims pointed out a pile of 100 limestone blocks behind a barbed wire fence that had been blasted from the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashed into its walls.

They decided that one should live in Eagle County.

Every piece of Indiana limestone used to build the Pentagon is numbered. The piece in Eagle County’s Freedom Park is B0045.

The commissioners rented the Penske truck Buddy and Bonnie Sims drove to haul B0045 from the Pentagon to Eagle County. Buddy and Bonnie arrived at the Pentagon about the time a snowstorm did, which shut down the entire city. So they waited a day.

The next day, they wanted to use a forklift to lift the 700-pound piece of limestone into their Penske truck. The forklift was just sitting there, but of course, this was Washington, D.C., and no one would give them permission to fire it up.

Buddy Sims still had all kinds of generals, colonels and Congressmen on speed dial, and started working the phone. Several sergeants and a general showed up. Eager young congressional staffers arrived to help, dressed in business attire — nice dresses, cashmere and fur coats, heels and suits.

Finally, 20 people were able to lift that piece of limestone into the truck.

When Buddy and Bonnie Sims crested Vail Pass on their way home, dozens of first responders met them to escort them home.


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