Memorial Day event in Aspen enjoyed at redesigned Veterans Memorial Park
Enjoying a bright spring day with flags snapping in a brisk wind, hundreds of people gathered Monday at the newly redesigned Veterans Memorial Park to honor their fallen fellow soldiers, family members and friends in the annual Aspen event.
The park was filled with men and women who have served and many wore jackets, hats and shirts to honor their time in the different branches. Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines all came together. It was the first Memorial Day Observance since the park was rededicated in November after 31 years.
The memorial, which is nestled between the Pitkin County Courthouse and its new administration building on Main Street, has been under construction the past two springs, and the annual event has been at the park next to Aspen City Hall.
“This is such a beautiful, new place to honor our veterans,” retired Col. Dick Merritt said. “Or to come and think about them for a while.”
Nancy Bosshard, an Air Force pilot in Vietnam who played an instrumental role in the creation of the original park, lit a candle atop the new memorial to commemorate the day.
After comments from organizers and local veterans’ activists, a few veterans and community members came from the crowd to talk about their fallen friends and family.
Janis Nark, a nurse in Vietnam in 1970-71 who came to Aspen after the war, came forward Monday to honor her fellow Army nurse Karen Ebhardt. They met in the Army reserves in Denver before getting deployed together to the Middle East for Desert Storm in 1990.
“Had it not been for Desert Storm, I would have never come to peace with my memories from Vietnam,” Nark, who joined the Army out of nursing school, said after the ceremony. “It served me.”
Nark has been on the board of directors for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C., for over 20 years, and is usually there for Memorial Day and Veterans Days. She does get to participate in Aspen’s annual Fourth of July parade, but this year, there was an opening to stay home for Memorial Day.
“We have so many former military here in Aspen. I’m so thrilled to get to be here this year,” Nark said before heading to the Elks Lodge for the annual picnic.
“I speak professionally but you’d never know it,” she said of having to collect herself while talking to the crowd about Ebhardt. “She was my best friend. I just adored her.”
Charlie Hopton served in the Army in Vietnam and volunteers with the Western Slope Veterans Coalition, which helps vets in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties get their benefits.
He honored his friend Bob Lewis, who among myriad things created and led the Independence Pass Foundation, the Wildwood School and the Aspen Field Biological Laboratory. Before all that, Lewis was part of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. Hopton brought Lewis’ Bronze Star to Monday’s event to show the crowd. Lewis died in July 2005 at the age of 84.
“He came here after the war and really, really gave to the community,” Hopton said.
Trumpeter Dick Sundeen was recognized Monday as an honorary Marine for his years of service for playing at numerous veterans’ events. The ceremony came to a close after Sundeen’s rendition of “Taps” echoed through the courtyard and the colors were retired.
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The 20-person San Juan Interagency Hotshot Crew out of Durango is on the mountain to assess the fire risk and protect the Adventure Park. It is unknown when the park will reopen.