Aspen’s Veterans Day memorial attracts standing room-only crowd |

Aspen’s Veterans Day memorial attracts standing room-only crowd

‘It’s been a tough couple years here. This is a very special day for us.’

More than 200 people attended the town’s traditional Veteran’s Day memorial celebration Thursday in downtown Aspen to honor those who have served and sacrificed for the U.S.

The celebration — originally scheduled for Veteran’s Memorial Park on Main Street but moved because of weather concerns to the Aspen Fire Department’s main vehicle bays — was the first since 2019 after last year’s event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back!” said Dan Glidden, a Vietnam veteran and former Aspen Police officer. “Yes we are here. We made it. It’s been a tough couple years here. This is a very special day for us.”

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col (ret.) Dick Merritt emceed the festivities with his usual military precision, calling for the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” recitation of “The Pledge of Allegiance” and the presentation of the American flag by members of a local Boy Scout troop. He also invited the crowd over the Eagles Club afterward for a free lunch.

Merritt, a longtime advocate for veterans in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond, was recognized and honored by Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine, who spoke at the presentation.

“Dick Merritt exemplifies leadership,” Balentine said. “He’s one of my personal heroes.”

Balentine, a U.S. Navy veteran, also highlighted a “grim statistic” that haunts today’s military: a high suicide rate. For example, suicide among male veterans 18-to-34 years old has increased 86% since 2006, according to Stop Soldier Suicide, a non-profit.

Other speakers read poems and honored loved ones for the standing-room only crowd, which spilled out into the driveway.

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