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Memorial Day ceremonies honor veterans who have passed away

Graves of veterans at the Cortez Cemetery were decorated with flowers and American flags for Memorial Day. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Events held in Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Rico

Veteran groups conducted ceremonies and hosted a breakfast Monday in the Cortez area in honor of Memorial Day.

About a dozen people watched the sunrise ceremony held at the Cortez Cemetery. The event was arranged by the American Legion Ute Mountain Post 75 and Montezuma County VFW.

A rifle volley symbolized the beginning of Memorial Day during a sunrise ceremony held at the Cortez Cemetery. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Memorial Day is for remembrance of all U.S. veterans who have passed away, and was made a national holiday in 1971. It is different from Veterans Day, which honors all veterans.

“Those who served deserve our thanks and respect,” said John Shriner, American Legion Chaplain of the Honor Guard. “We thank the Lord for a beautiful morning and for those patriots that come out to join us.”

The Pledge of Allegiance was conducted, and a prayer was read. A rifle volley reverberated in the morning light, and taps was played as American flags fluttered on veterans’ graves in the background.

Veterans gather Monday at the Ute Mountain American Legion Post 75 during a Memorial Day ceremony. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Afterward, a breakfast was held at the American Legion hall.

On his way into the breakfast, veteran John Karsten, (U.S. Army 1981-1984) urged citizens to take a pause and honor those soldiers who sacrificed for the country.

“Today is a time for friends and family, and also a time for reflection,” he said. “Take the time to slow down and show appreciation and respect for veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice and made our country possible.”

Donations made during the breakfast are distributed by the American Legion Auxiliary group to support local veterans.

Hash browns could not be served this year because of a broken freezer, and the American Legion is looking for a new freezer, or a good used one.

At 9 a.m., a ceremony was held at the Dolores Community Center. A wreath was placed in the Dolores River to commemorate sailors lost at sea from storms or naval warfare.

A wreath was set adrift in the Dolores River to commemorate soldiers lost as sea during a Memorial Day ceremony Monday. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The wreath, made of flowers and boughs, is a way to recognize those who rest in unmarked, watery graves, Shriner said during the ceremony.

As rivers flow to the sea, so does the wreath.

“It symbolizes salvation, in the form of a life preserver,” Shriner said. “The boughs and flowers symbolize a peaceful and sheltered resting place, a safe haven from the storms of life. Farewell sailor, we wish you a fair wind and a following sea.”

Veterans and their families gathered in Dolores for a Memorial Day ceremony at the Dolores Community Center. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The Memorial Day events returned this year after being canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions on gatherings also put military funerals were put on hold.

Now that restrictions have been lifted, the honor guards of the American Legion and VFW have been conducting military funerals for veterans who have recently passed away.

In the past 10 days, two military funerals were held in Rico, and one at Summit Ridge. One will take place at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds in June.

The American Legion Ute Mountain Post 75 celebrated its 90th birthday on May 22. More than 100 veterans attended a lunch at the legion hall and were entertained by two live bands at an evening dance.

“It was real successful, and the donations to help our local veterans were generous,” said Scott Magness, Post Commander for American Legion Post 75. “For it to be continuous for so long is a testament to local support for our veterans.”

More and more veteran groups are disappearing, but the local American Legion perseveres “because we are more stubborn,” said Bud Crawn, 95, a WWII veteran.

At 10 a.m., a ceremony was also held at the Cedar Grove cemetery in Mancos on Road 41 south of town.

At 11 a.m. in Rico, there was a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Valley Rico Cemetery on Colorado Highway 145 with lunch served at the community center.

John Shriner, Chaplain of the Honor Guard for American Legion Post 75, spoke about Memorial Day during a ceremony and breakfast Monday at the American Legion Hall. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)