Memorial Day observance draws crowd
ASPEN More than 100 people gathered Monday to honor veterans – alive and fallen – for Memorial Day.Marine Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, retired, a Vietnam veteran who was master of ceremonies for the event, said a record number came to pay respect.”We have focused on the missing and dead … 1,204 since the last Memorial Day,” Merritt said at the beginning of the ceremony.Memorial Day this year comes as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, with 4,000 dead and 25,000 wounded between the two conflicts. In the Iraq war, more than 200 members of the military from Colorado have died.
Aspenite Blair Elliot brought the war home for the assembled crowd when he said he had lost a nephew, Gregory Millard of San Diego, over the weekend. “He was 24 years old, a good kid,” Elliot said. “He was my friend.”The ceremony started with a presentation of the colors and laying of the memorial wreath at the memorial in between next to the Pitkin County Courthouse. Pastor Dan Bosko gave an invocation, followed by a candle lighting and trumpet interlude by Richard Sundeen. Then Jeannie Walla sang, “God Bless America.”
Merritt invited people to share memories of the fallen. Valley residents, young and old, stood up to remember fathers and brothers, sisters and cousins, who have died in war. Others stood up just to thank those who have fought, while some acknowledged hardships of veterans still living. A number of relatives of fallen soldiers just said a name and date of death. Folowing that, Merritt invited veterans of past wars to stand up. At least a dozen from World War II were in attendence, along with six Korean War vets, three Cold War-era vets, one Desert Storm veteran and at least two dozen Vietnam veterans.The last to stand up was Chris Black, 20, of Basalt, a Marine who just returned from Iraq. He had been in various parts of Iraq, including Haditha and Baghdad, for seven months.
Finally, everyone joined in to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” Bosko gave a benediction, and Sundeen played taps. “We get to walk in peace this day,” Bosko said, “because of the men and women who have fought on previous days.” Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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