Ceremony offers respect, thanks to military vets

The Grand Mesa Pipes and Drums play during a Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado on Monday morning.

More than 300 people, many of them veterans, gathered Monday morning for a Memorial Day ceremony to honor those who have served their country.

Army veteran Leroy Wilcox was thankful to see so many people displaying gratitude for veterans. But the people he was thinking most about during the ceremony at Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado weren’t there with him.

“All the people in Vietnam that were with me, who don’t have the opportunity to be here with me” were on his mind during the hourlong ceremony, Wilcox said.

Wilcox said he lost many fellow soldiers while fighting in Vietnam. He was lucky enough to come home, but the reception wasn’t as friendly as Monday’s event.

“It wasn’t a pretty picture,” said Wilcox, 62.

In contrast, Monday’s service featured a standing ovation for all veterans in the audience, awards for people who have done something to help veterans, and the laying of wreaths and a memorial service to honor fallen heroes. A color guard and a procession of bagpipe and drum players braved the wind and cold to perform at the event, and two Grand Junction City Council members and all three state legislators representing Mesa County made brief speeches.

Rep. Ray Scott, a Grand Junction Republican, said “it seems like a hollow thing to say” thank you because he believes it is not enough for the people who care enough to sacrifice for freedom.

“Even though the words aren’t enough, we still must say thank you,” he said.

Republican Rep. Laura Bradford of Collbran said this Memorial Day was especially poignant for her because it’s the first one since her father, a World War II veteran, passed away in March.

“This holiday is a holy day in America,” she said.

No matter how people choose to honor the holiday, Navy veteran John Smith said he hopes people “remember us and what we did.”

“It’s as simple as that,” he said.


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