Aspen turns out to honor fallen soldiers
ASPEN – Old soldiers will never die – as long as crowds show up to honor their memories even when temperatures dip into the 40s and there’s a brisk wind and spurts of snow.
Roughly 200 people ignored wintry conditions to attend Aspen’s Memorial Day observance east of the Pitkin County Courthouse at noon Monday.
“You folks get this. You understand Memorial Day. You understand Veteran’s Day,” Dan Glidden, a veteran who has helped organize the service for several years, told the audience.
The importance of the day, of course, is paying tribute to soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving the country and honoring those who served and have since passed away. “We cannot forget them,” Glidden said.
Special recognition was given during the “Remembering the Fallen” segment of the ceremony to four Aspenites who served in the military and recently passed away. They were Bil Dunaway, Ruthie Brown, Peter Greene and Jess Maddalone.
“Remembering the Fallen” was particularly stirring for Isabelle Glidden. As Dan’s daughter, she’s helped with Memorial Day preparations over the years, including placing small American flags on the graves of veterans in Aspen’s cemeteries. (The Gliddens, along with veterans Jim Markalunas and Dick Merritt, placed about 180 flags on graves of veterans in Aspen and Basalt last weekend.)
She told of how she was speaking this month to a close friend who was serving in Afghanistan. Combat sharpened his perspective and made him focus on qualities of life that were most important. He advised her to live life to the fullest, let her family and friends know how much they are loved and to do good.
Her friend died in combat a few days ago. His pregnant wife went into shock upon learning the news but doctors were able to stabilize her and safely deliver the baby. Isabelle Glidden honored her fallen friend and concluded with a quote from Francis A. Walker: “We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.”
Hugh Roberts read the names of two men he served with in Vietnam, including one that he said saved his life but perished from his own wounds. After the ceremony, Roberts said Memorial Day continues to be a difficult time after so many years. He served in Vietnam in 1966-68.
It’s also an important time for him to honor those he served with. “They were my friends,” he said.
Memorial Day services are important for communities like Aspen because it helps people who never served realize the full price of freedom. “It costs people’s lives,” he said.
Aspen’s hour-long ceremony included military traditions, such as the Presentation of the Colors and the laying of the memorial wreath as well symbols of national pride, like the Pledge of Allegiance.
It also included a reading by Tom Buesch of Stephen Crane’s anti-war poem, “War is Kind.”
The sun broke out of the clouds when Richard Sundeen played a trumpet interlude.
It all dovetailed well.
“This gathering today is not political, is not religious,” Merritt said. It was simply to honor the soldiers.
Dan Glidden said it was rewarding to see children and adults who never served in the military join multiple veterans at the observance. The crowd has steadily grown since the War Memorial was dedicated in 1987.
Fred Crowley is a former Marine and a former Pitkin County commissioner who helped raise funds for the memorial. He recalled that only 40 or so people attended the first observances. It’s rewarding to see the numbers growing, he said.
Memorial Day has personal significance to Crowley, who served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968. His battalion of 1,300 soldiers suffered 900 casualties.
“I lost a lot of buddies over there,” he said.
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