Valley stops to honor those who served
EDWARDS — Memorial Day starts early around here, with flags placed on local military veterans’ graves.
It ends as it must, with Taps, but also with the American flag returned to full staff, flying full over Freedom Park and above a piece of Pentagon limestone that was blasted from the building on 9/11.
More than 200 people — by far the largest crowd in the 11 years the local VFW has been hosting a Memorial Day ceremony — showed up Monday in Freedom Park to remember and pay tribute to those who most deserve it. The weather moved the ceremony inside the WECMRD Field House, but it did nothing to dampen the crowd’s spirits.
Rabbi Joel Newman with B’Nai Vail Congregation is a retired Navy chaplain and was this year’s keynote speaker. He said all too often he took the long walk from a white Navy van to a family’s front door, delivering the tragic news that a loved one would not be coming home.
“We pause to reflect and remember those who are bravely serving our country at sea and on foreign shores,” Newman said. “It is their selfless sacrifice and for many the ultimate sacrifice that allows us to live in peace.”
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“As we stand here today we know they are not forgotten,” Newman said.
The local VFW Post and Boy Scouts presented the colors, retired Marine Lt. Col. Bernie Krueger read the president’s annual proclamation.
The Freedom Park centerpiece is a memorial to fallen local military veterans and emergency service providers who died in the line of duty. It’s not a long list, unless you know someone who’s on it. A few local families of those fallen were in Monday’s crowd.
Mountaintops and valleys
Monday afternoon’s Freedom Park ceremony in Edwards follows a mountaintop ceremony at the summit of Tennessee Pass, where during the early 1940s, the 10th Mountain Division spent what seemed like an interminable amount of time training. They used to joke that they might not see action and that they were training for the “Battle of Camp Hale.”
They did see combat, of course, along with the death and dismemberment that accompanies it.
World War II veteran Herb Rubenstein was in Monday’s crowd.
“Many of us have experienced and smelled the horrors of combat,” Newman said.
No one returns from war without scars. Some wounds show, while others cannot be seen but still hurt deep inside, Newman said.
“Today you are surrounded not by the enemy, but by fellow soldiers, sailors, guardsmen and guardians. They’ll put you on their backs and they’ll carry you through this rough time.”
“Today in the Vail Valley, we stand together to remember those whom we have lost. They have not died in vain because it’s the soldier, not the minister, who has given us the freedom of religion. It’s the sailor, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It’s the Marine, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It’s the guardsman, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It’s the guardian, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.”
Like the country it represents, the Freedom Park flag didn’t stay down.
As Monday’s ceremony concluded, some local veterans whisked it from half staff back to the top, where it unfurled and snapped to attention in the afternoon breeze.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.