Glenwood Springs’ American Legion passes on annual ceremony to the Western Slope Memorial Day Riders
Maria Carlson grinned from ear to ear as she spoke over the roar of the motorcycles exiting the Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.
Although there wasn’t a Memorial Day ceremony last year, Carlson said she still came out to play Taps on her bugle and the motorcyclists still gathered to honor the holiday.
“It means so much because I have a brother who’s currently serving in the Air Force. So it’s a day of remembrance of all the family members I have lost. It’s a day of trying to understand and help people mourn through a lot of loss,” Carlson, a member of the Glenwood Springs High School Air Force Junior ROTC and incoming senior, said.
“It’s also a day for me to play my instrument as a last call to the veterans who have served, and it just means a lot to me that they ask me every year to come back.”
Amongst the motorcyclists riding in honor of Memorial Day was U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Rifle. She did not speak at the event but Levan introduced her as a guest at the beginning of the ceremony. Also attending was state House Rep. Perry Will of New Castle.
This year’s American Legion Memorial Day event was a little different than those of the past as it marked a new beginning for the Glenwood Springs commemoration. Dan Levan hosted for his 13th year in a row, but turned it over to the founder of the Memorial Day Riders, Joaquin Garcia, for his organization to carry on the event’s legacy.
“Growing up, I lived in a house across the river. I remember hearing the rifles and bugles playing every year. This has been a big part of my life ever since I was a kid,” Levan said.
Ben Aiken, the commander of the GSHS ROTC and an Air Force veteran, spoke during the ceremony to pay tribute to those who have served the country.
“For me personally, today is a poignant memory of those I served with who never made it home,” Aiken said.
The changing of the guard was done by Boy Scout troop 225. As they raised the American flag, hand salutes popped up throughout the crowd.
Aiken said in his speech that there are about 19 million veterans in America, but that makes up less than 10% of the total population. He had the crowd applaud those who are actively serving and those who plan to serve, despite their absence at the ceremony.
“(Today we) think of those currently standing watch around the globe,” Aiken said. “They never gave up on us and we never gave up on them.”
Levan officially passed on the ceremonial responsibilities to Garcia to thunderous applause from the audience.
“It is my pleasure and honor to take over as an individual and as a member of (Memorial Day Riders),” Garcia said.
Levan followed up by saying Garcia’s few words are made up by his many actions.
The event brought people of all ages together to honor those who have served. Veterans and prospective members of the armed forces, including Carlson, spent moments of silence and celebration together to recognize the sacrifices others have made.
“I’m looking into either going to the Air Force Academy or the Naval Academy. So I hope to serve one day,” Carlson said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.