Aspen shows support for veterans at Memorial Day Observance |

Aspen shows support for veterans at Memorial Day Observance

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Richard Sundeen plays a trumpet interlude at the Memorial Day Observance in Aspen on Monday. The ceremony was attended by hundreds who wanted to honor veterans.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

When hundreds of people showed up at Aspen’s Memorial Day Observance, they were thanked for showing their support for U.S. military troops but also urged to do more to help those who come home wounded.

“All I can say is, ‘Wow,’” said event co-organizer Dan Glidden as he looked out at the crowd that attended the ceremony at the Roaring Fork Valley Veteran’ Memorial east of the Pitkin County Courthouse. People lined up along the Courthouse Annex, under the stately trees by the courthouse and several deep into the lawn to watch the ceremony despite temperatures in the low 40s when it got underway.

Glidden, a U.S. Navy veteran and one of the founders of the memorial in 1987, said he has a favorite quote: “A man is not dead until he is forgotten.” The crowd’s big turnout showed that the veterans who were being honored for giving their life while in service weren’t forgotten, he said.

The Rev. Jonathan Brice of Christ Episcopal Church reminded the audience during the invocation that the service is meant to honor those who died in battle. There is no greater sacrifice than sacrificing your own life for others, he said.

“Our children must know who they were, what they did and why they did it,” Brice said of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

But, Brice said, the ceremony also is designed to honor all members who served in the military, to thank them for their sacrifices.

Pitkin County Commissioner Steve Child spoke briefly but powerfully on that theme. He noted that his grandfather survived World War I and returned home but suffered from medical complications from a mustard gas attack. Those afflictions eventually killed him.

“Remember those also who served and came home with a variety of injuries,” Child said.

Paul Andersen gave a short presentation about the Huts for Vets program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, in part by providing wilderness healing at 10th Mountain Division Huts. Many times, returning veterans are suffering “in here,” Andersen said while touching his head, and “in here” while touching his chest.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Dick Merritt talked about the efforts of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition to help with veterans’ needs, from homelessness to mental issues and from unemployment to medical issues.

The coalition is hosting its inaugural Dining Out for Vets event in the towns of the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys June 2 to raise funds for its program. At least 10 percent of proceeds from participating restaurants will go to the program. Information on the event can be found at DlzzCCs.

Roaring Fork Valley resident Toni Kronberg gave a stirring account of how she lost two Aspen friends and veterans to suicide. She urged people to be aware of issues veterans are facing and help them find help.

Korean War veteran Charlie Hopton of Aspen suggested people must do more to support troops than attend a ceremony once a year.

“Our government is not doing the job for the vets,” Hopton said.

He urged them to contribute to the Western Slope Veterans Coalition.

“Plastic ribbons on the back of your car is not helping the vets,” Hopton said.