VFW, American Legion honor veterans at Memorial Day service | CraigDailyPress.com

VFW, American Legion honor veterans at Memorial Day service

Veterans salute the American flag, flown at half-mast, Monday during the Memorial Day ceremony at Craig Cemetery. Flags also decorated veterans' gravesites and surrounded the military burial site at the cemetery.
Michelle Balleck

American flags decorate the graves of local veterans at Craig Cemetery. The military burial site served as the setting for Craig's Memorial Day ceremony Monday.Michelle Balleck

As the wind picked up Monday morning, the flag Al Shepherd was holding flapped mightily. But, he held his ground along with the rest of the color guard overseeing ceremonies at the Craig Cemetery.

The breezy weather was nothing he and his comrades couldn't handle in doing something as important as honoring the people who served in the military.

"It's a great honor to be part of Memorial Day, which I have done all my life," he said.

More than 100 people attended the Memorial Day service performed by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 and the American Legion Post 62, paying tribute to fallen military members from Craig and Moffat County.

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Volunteers from both organizations read off names of the known 742 veterans whose remains are in locations around the county, 683 of whom are interred in the Craig Cemetery. Headstones for soldiers in the location date back as far as the Civil War.

The service also included a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer, a reading of the wartime poem "In Flanders Fields," and a 21-gun salute.

Shepherd served in the Army from 1954 to 1956, attaining the rank of sergeant. Since his time in the military, he has worked with the VFW and the American Legion in numerous capacities for military funeral services.

"Whatever needs done," he said.

Shepherd's daughter Kristi, a member of the VFW's Women's Auxiliary, was one of the volunteers reading names, as well as American Legion Commander Mel Shockley and VFW Commander Mark Wick.

Wick, a second class petty officer in the Navy during the Vietnam War, said he was very pleased with the turnout of the day.

"It went very crisp and clean in honoring our fallen veterans," he said. "The weather we just have to learn to deal with, but if it were snowing or raining, it wouldn't matter because we'd be here anyway."

Among the crowd braving the cool weather was Craig resident Sue Van Wagoner and her daughter, Ashley Hermann, of Vernal, Utah. While at the cemetery, the two of them and their families left flowers on a dozen family graves, six of which belonged to veterans.

Van Wagoner said her family often visits the cemetery on Memorial Day, but this is the first year they have been able to view the traditional service.

"It was great," she said. "We got comfortable, had a seat and listened to a lot of names of people I went to school with, schoolteachers, a lot of family members."

Van Wagoner said she was emotional at the close of the ceremony, with the playing of "Taps."

"It just helped me to remember everybody that has fought for us," she said.

Both mother and daughter view the holiday as an important one for their family. Hermann and her husband, Josh, attended with their two young children to start instilling a sense of patriotism in them early in life.

"It's important to start passing on traditions even when they're this little so that they grow up knowing what traditions are and enjoying them," Hermann said.

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