Veterans of wars old and new are honored in Aspen
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Veterans Day is often used as a way to remember battles long past ? World War I and World War II, conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, even the already decade-old Gulf War.
However, the United States’ latest campaign ? the so-called War on Terror ? has created another group of combat veterans.
Those men and women were recognized Monday during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Aspen War Memorial near the courthouse, perhaps for the first time since their return from peace-keeping missions abroad ? but not, as many ceremony attendees noted, for the final time.
At the closing of yesterday’s ceremony, the veterans were called forward to be applauded by the crowd. Three men stepped up to receive recognition of their involvement in World War II; the same number was recognized for their efforts during the Korean War. An additional 20 men and women were applauded for a tour of Vietnam, and a handful were acknowledged for stints during the Bosnian conflict and the Gulf War.
Then, a new group of veterans was recognized ? those called to service shortly after Sept. 11 for duties in Afghanistan. At least three men, including members of the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard assembled for ceremonial duties, were met with wild applause.
“These are the folks we owe our freedom, our lives, our country,” said Dan Glidden, a Navy veteran and master of ceremonies.
He reminded the crowd that the local Veterans Day service was designed as a living memorial ? a public honor for those who have served their country in both war and peace time. Much of the ceremony was dedicated to presentations by attendees as they shared stories of their own experiences with war, or their feelings of how veterans affected their lives.
Members of Debbie Harder-Kreutzer’s fifth-grade class ? who also provided a medley of patriotic music ? stepped forward to read letters penned to unknown veterans. It seemed that every member of the Aspen Middle School class, bundled up against the cold morning in down coats and star-spangled winter wear, had a presentation for Monday’s ceremony.
“Thank you so much. Thank you for all your courage,” student Keaton Doyle read from her short note. “Because of you, we have freedom.”
“I would like to thank you for the freedom I have right now. You made America a better place to be,” another fifth-grader read.
Presentations continued despite the morning’s dropping temperatures. Vietnam veteran Hugh Roberts read from a list of names of friends who served in his battalion. Another ceremony attendee paused to thank a veteran he met by chance nearly 15 years ago ? a man who was one of only 4 to survive a deadly battle that cost 273 soldiers their lives. Ceremony organizer Ann Owsley also stepped forward to remember two Aspenites killed during tours of duty in Vietnam.
Though the stories spanned over six decades of battle ? the earliest came from a woman who remembered a WWII bomber pilot, and the latest thanked those preparing for a second conflict in Iraq ? each represented a veteran’s sacrifice for their country.
“That’s what we all stand for,” said veteran Cody Owen. “God bless this country, this town and these people.”
[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive and Aspen city councilman Derek Johnson has been released from state prison and is currently residing at a halfway house.