Honoring our heroes

Picnic recognizes gift of freedom

Gretchen Mack couldn't help but get choked up as she talked about losing her son, Pfc. Chance R. Phelps, in April 2004. The U.S. Marine was killed when the convoy he was protecting came under attack west of Baghdad, Iraq.

"The freedoms and luxuries we have today are a direct result of the sacrifices my son and many other men and women have made," she said.

Mack, who lives in Riverton, Wyo., came to Craig to speak at the Hometown Heroes Picnic with her mother, Tonee Gingrich, on Saturday, in an effort to remind guests the importance of military personnel.

The event was held at City Park, and sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 and the Craig Daily Press.

Mack recalled a letter her son wrote home to a woman at the First Baptist Church, where his grandmother attends services.

"Whether you believe in this war or not ... we are there, we're going to stay there. We need to stand behind our Commander in Chief because we are U.S. Marines," she read.

Bill Harding, a member of the VFW, took his turn at the podium, as well, recognizing the pain wars cause, and the division of countries, communities, and even brothers, they can cause.

But he asked everyone there Saturday to honor those who fight for the liberties we have because of the long line of service men and women who have fought for America.

VFW Post Commander Ray Talkington said the organization has worked with the Daily Press to put on the event for three years in honor of Armed Forces Day. Other supporters include the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, the Elks Club, KRAI, the Cedar Mountain Lions Club, City Market and Pepsi.

"It's just a community effort," he said. "Every service organization contributes something."

Judging by the number of hamburgers and hot dogs the Cedar Mountain Lion Club cooked, Talkington said there were at least 500 people in attendance.

He hopes community members came away with an appreciation of veterans in our community. He emphasized this with a presentation of certificates that read, "Your Service Made a Difference," to Vietnam War veterans.

"It's just honoring our veterans from all arms and all wars, and the ones serving now," Talkington said.

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