`Next to God … we’re the best’ | AspenTimes.com

`Next to God … we’re the best’

“This is a great day in honor of all our country’s veterans, alive and deceased, who served us all so valiantly during war.”

About 80 people gathered at the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial listened to this announcement by Wally Boyd yesterday morning during the opening of a Veterans Day observance. Boyd, a Vietnam War veteran, and several other local vets organized the ceremony, which was led by Richard Lyon, minister of the United Methodist Church in Aspen and also a Vietnam vet.

The ceremony started promptly at 11 a.m. – 81 years to the day and hour after World War I officially ended – to observe the occasion.

Clad in a red beret adorned with military pins, Rev. Lyon began by reading a prayer for America’s fallen veterans. He then asked participants to open their hearts and share memories of loved ones who served in the armed forces.

Boyd stepped forward to thank local Rick Buesch, a former Marine reconnaissance trooper in the Vietnam War who typically organizes local Veterans Day and Memorial Day gatherings, but was unable to attend yesterday.

One woman spoke of her father, who died in November 1942 along with 180 other servicemen, while serving in World War II.

Another local man remembered his grandfather, who served in World War I. “The military was something he was very proud of, and he let all his kids and grandkids know about it,” the man recalled.

Local David Bentley remembered friend Laurie Stark, who died in a plane crash near Saigon in 1975 along with 78 Vietnamese orphans and nearly 50 volunteers.

“Let us not forget how many Americans, and Vietnamese, died over there,” Bentley said.

One Marine remembered several buddies who died while serving on an Iran hostage rescue team.

“Next to God, we’re the best,” said one vet, who offered remembrance to several of his friends who died in Vietnam between 1966 and 1970.

Several people invoked the name of longtime Aspen resident – and 20-year Red Cross veteran – Claire Sandersen, who was remembered as a “peace activist all her life, who lost a son in Vietnam.”

Vietnam vet Don Stapleton shared an intimate story about Sandersen.

“I must have been in Vietnam for about a year, and she, somehow, made it possible for me to call home,” Stapleton said. Stapleton lauded Sandersen’s ingenuity and compassion in arranging the brief conversation with his family via a field phone.

“I’ll never forget that,” he said.

Following public comments, Lyon recited another prayer for the veterans.

“We offer thanksgiving to all our veteran ancestors, male and female, living and deceased, upon whose gifts we may build a better future,” Lyon said.

A rendition of “Taps,” played by a sole trumpeter, concluded the ceremony.

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