A salute to sacrifice: Craig community honors fallen soldiers for Memorial Day
For Craig Press
With plentiful red, white and blue flapping in the background and held aloft by a gentle breeze Monday morning at Craig Cemetery, local residents kept in mind the people who gave their all to keep the American colors flying.
The annual Memorial Day ceremony saw both past servicemen and civilians alike take a few moments to pause and reflect on the reason for the three-day weekend of late May by honoring the fallen soldiers of Moffat County.
Traditional elements included a hoisting of the flag, a 21-gun salute, playing of “Taps” and more, provided by the local Honor Guard, which was made up of folks with decades combined of experience in the United States Armed Forces.
Doug Wellman was enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War and became part of the local Honor Guard about five years ago.
“I’m the one who holds the flag. That’s about all they let me do,” Wellman said with a laugh.
While some in the crew last saw military duty as much as 60 or 70 years ago, younger veterans were also in the bunch.
One of the newest members is Amber Suits, who served in the Navy from 2007 to 2011. She began in the Honor Guard thanks to her brother, Christopher Suits, a fellow vet who passed away in September due to complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis.
“Today’s for him and all the other ones,” Suits said.
Serving in the Army from 2000 to 2005, Craig City Councilmember Steven Mazzuca has been an active part of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, and Memorial Day means a great deal to him.
“For me, I’m always excited to honor our fellow veterans. My only concern is that the list of names we have gets longer every year. And our group gets smaller,” Mazzuca said.
Those in attendance Monday remained quiet and pensive as organizers read off the list of names of deceased veterans from the area, whether they were killed in combat or died later in life.
Michael Lausin, Kristi Shepherd and Sue Neher read a combined 853 names of honored figures, many of whom were interred at the same grounds as the ceremony, while others had their remains elsewhere.
“We have a lot of ranch vets, like they could be in a family plot somewhere or on a mantelpiece, anywhere,” said Lausin, who serves as commander of Sons of the American Legion Squadron 62.
Following the ceremony, many in the crowd also took the opportunity to decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers or patriotic décor.
Marty Martinez, his sister, Isis, and their family members visited the headstone of their grandfather, Eliseo Martinez, who served in the Army in World War I.
The excursion overseas was a unique point in the life of Eliseo, though with some duties that were far different than soldiers today face.
“I think he shoed mules on the ship going over there,” Marty Martinez said.
While springtime weather in Moffat County is never a certainty, Lausin was pleased to have sunny skies for the morning event, as well as the afternoon ceremony at Moffat County Fairgrounds and later in Maybell.
Still, even in years with a downpour, the American holiday is an utterly important one, he said.
“It’s remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Lausin said. “Yes, we’re mourning their loss, but we’re also celebrating what they’ve done. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their sacrifices.”
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