Iraq vets march from Rifle to Glenwood
To say that Donna Fell is happy to have her niece Becky Tengel back in Colorado is an understatement.Tengel returned March 1 after spending a year in Tikrit, Iraq, as a chemical operations specialist with the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division. She was in Glenwood Springs on Monday in uniform as part of an event honoring the troops, organized in part by her aunt. “This is so powerful for me,” said Fell, a Glenwood Springs real estate agent, standing amidst red, white and blue balloons on the patio at the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle on Monday morning. “I had two brothers who served in Vietnam, and when they came home, nobody talked about it. It breaks my heart what we did to those soldiers. I don’t want that to happen ever again.”Fell, along with Glenwood Springs resident Betty Scranton and Kathy Meskel of Rifle, organized “Saluting the Troops,” a convoy on Monday from Glen Valley Care Center in Glenwood Springs to the Colorado State Veterans Hospital in Rifle, and back to Glenwood for a ceremony at the Hotel Colorado. The date of the event coincided with several other historic occasions. Sunday, June 6, was the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion at Normandy. And former President Ronald Reagan died on Saturday, June 5. In addition, Hotel Colorado – which served as a veterans hospital during World War II – is celebrating its 111th birthday this week. “It was a fluke,” Fell said of the coincidences. “I really wanted to give Becky a huge welcome home. This is a thank you to her and to all who have served. This is not political. This is about honoring our soldiers and welcoming them home.”Adorned with yellow ribbons and American flags, the convoy – carrying Tengel and two local servicemen – John Bendetti of Rifle and Robert Jepsen of Glenwood – motored out of the Glen Valley Care Center about 9 a.m. Monday morning, traveling on Highway 6 & 24 paralleling Interstate 70 past Canyon Creek, to the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle.”People honked at us all the way,” said Kathi Wilson, administrator at Glen Valley. She rode down to Rifle with Curtis Wesner, a veteran who served in Vietnam. “A man saluted us from his tractor,” said Fell, “and there were children with flags waiting for us along the road.” By the time the group reached the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home, a few more cars and trucks had joined them. After a short ceremony, the newly returned veterans had a chance to mingle with some of the veterans at the nursing home, where they exchanged words, and knowing glances. “It was very intense,” Tengel said of her experiences in Iraq. “It’s hard to reintegrate after being over there. Nothing makes sense for awhile.” Bendetti served with the National Guard for the past three years, and the last year as an E-4 military policeman in Kuwait and Iraq. And Jepsen was wounded in action, serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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