About 775 fallen local veterans honored Monday at Craig Cemetery | CraigDailyPress.com

About 775 fallen local veterans honored Monday at Craig Cemetery

Brian Smith

Mel Shockley, American Legion Post 62 commander, honors a fallen friend and fellow veteran after the Memorial Day remembrance service Monday at Craig Cemetery. Volunteers placed flags on 680 gravestones Sunday night at the cemetery to honor those who served their country. The names of about 775 fallen veterans were read during Monday's service.
Shawn McHugh

Craig Cemetery echoed Monday morning with the names of about 775 fallen Moffat County veterans.

Reading the veterans' names was part of the annual Memorial Day remembrance service organized by the American Legion Post 62 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265.

About 150 residents attended the service.

The service began with an address to the crowd, prayer, and then raising the American flag and lowering it to half-mast. A 21-gun salute was given after all the names had been read.

American Legion commander Mel Shockley was one of the name readers.

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Shockley said he became emotional after reading the name of a longtime friend and one new addition to the list of veterans who have passed — Bill Harding.

Harding, a former Moffat County Veterans Service Officer, died in January. He was one of the main organizers of the Memorial Day service in years past, Shockley said.

"It was a little emotional for me there at first when I had to read Bill Harding's name because he was one of my best friends, so it made it a little tough," he said. "But it is always tough to remember our fallen veterans."

Shockley said he thought the service went well and was glad to see a large attendance.

"It means so much to me to see all these people here honoring our heroes, and that's what they are, each and every one of them is a hero," he said.

Michael Lausin, commander of the Sons of the American Legion in Craig, became one of the organizers of the service in Harding's place.

"It's a way to honor those that have given the ultimate sacrifice and then those that … dropped their burdens along the wayside of life," he said.

When asked how he felt reading the names of Moffat County veterans, Lausin said it was "like visiting old friends."

"With the people that I know that were on that list, there is a great deal of sadness that we are having to read their name, especially some of the people that we have done honor guards and color guards with so many times," he said. "It's tough to have to read their names and know that they are gone.

"But, at the same time it's an honor to read their name."

Lausin said Memorial Day shouldn't be the only day fallen veterans should be remembered.

"You should think of the veterans all year long," he said. "Not just on Memorial Day, or not just on Veterans Day."

Craig resident Dan Hodges attended the service to "remember the freedoms that I have today."

Hodges' father served in the Army in World War II and his brother served in the Army in Vietnam, he said.

"We have so many different freedoms because of the sacrifices that my family and members of this nation made," he said. "They made the ultimate sacrifice and we can't forget that."

Hodges said the reading of the names brought him "a lot of tears and a lot of emotion."

"It just as easily could have been my name being read up there if my draft number would have been pulled up," he said.

Craig resident Paul Ridenour attended the service. He had a father who served in World War II and an uncle who was in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Today was the first time in my life that I called (my father) up and said, 'Thanks for what you did for me and for all of us,'" Ridenour said.

Ridenour said it is important to "pay respects" to those that "fought for our freedoms."

"Even though I don't know these men, they gave their lives to be where I'm at," he said. "They started playing that on the horn and it just got me all choked up."

Craig resident Paulette Bray said she attends the memorial service every year if she is in town.

"It's important to remember (the veterans) and to be in the audience for the people who go through the trouble to set it up," she said.

Craig resident Judy Smith said the service was "wonderful," but would have liked to see more residents attend.

During the name reading, Smith said she was thinking about veterans' names that she recognized and the names of families she knows.

"We owe these people a lot," she said.

VFW, Legion raise flag at Sandrock Ridge

Ten veterans from the VFW and American Legion started Memorial Day remembrances Monday morning by raising the flag at Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehab.

Dave Walters raised the flag while other veterans held the POW/MIA flag, Colorado state flag, VFW flag and American Legion flag.

Two other veterans raised rifles to salute fallen veterans.

After the flag was raised to half-staff, where it stayed until noon, local veterans led those in attendance in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Walters said he and many of the other veterans have participated in flag raising ceremonies numerous times, and it is always a privilege.

"It's an honor just to do it," Walters said. "We all just step forward to help out when we are needed."

Residents of the facility, as well as nurses, came out to give tribute, as well. They said attending the flag raising was their way of honoring the servicemen and women who gave their lives to defend the country.

— Staff writer Joshua Gordon contributed to this report

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