Communities prepare to remember those killed in action as part of Memorial Day events
On Monday, longtime Steamboat Springs resident Doc Daughenbaugh will be at the Steamboat Springs Cemetery, American flag in hand, for a ceremony honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country — and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I would call it a special, a sacred day because it’s set aside to honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country that were killed in battle,” said Daughenbaugh, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. “It’s a very personal reminder of the sacrifices that my friends and fellow marines made, and I think that every veteran feels that personal connection to that.”
Pat McClelland and the group of men in the rifle squad will proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder as they fill their role in a ceremony to honor the men and women who have fallen in action. It’s a responsibility they don’t take lightly.
“I enjoy doing it,” McClelland said. “You know, it’s kind of getting to the point for Mike and I now that it gets a little tough standing out there for an hour when the old knees and legs aren’t as good as they used to be.”
But just like Daughenbaugh, the U.S. Army veteran wants to be involved and honor the soldiers who didn’t make it home.
“A lot of us easily could have been the ones that are being memorialized,” said McClelland, who commanded platoon-sized units as a first lieutenant in the Army. “So it is very rewarding to pay that tribute each year.”
McClelland said the rifle squad has come a long way since he joined the veterans’ groups back in 1976. He said he got involved after attending a military funeral in Steamboat and said the rifle squad at the time was made up of World War II veterans who never practiced.
McClelland stepped in to lead the group, held regular practices and was able to acquire M-1 rifles that fired blanks through the armed services. He also recruited a few of his friends who had served in Vietnam to fill a few gaps in the seven-member rifle squad.
These days they are called on for military services where a 21-gun salute — in which seven squad members each fire three rounds to honor a fallen soldier — is appropriate, and it’s one of the attractions at the annual Memorial Day ceremony in Steamboat Springs, which draws crowds in the hundreds.
“It is really a privilege to serve, and a lot of people don’t understand that,” McClelland said. “Especially today’s world.”
This year Memorial Day week in Steamboat Springs will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening as veterans join members of the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and members of the Civil Air Patrol to place flags on the graves of soldiers.
The public is invited to attend this year’s Memorial Day ceremony, which will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday at the flagpole veteran’s memorial in Steamboat Springs Cemetery.
It is advised those attending the event arrive at least a half hour before the start of the ceremony as parking is limited. Buses will start loading at the Steamboat Transit Center at 9:30 a.m. with the first bus departing at 9:45.
The last bus will leave the transit center at 10:30 a.m. in order to be at the cemetery for the start of the ceremony. Buses will return to the transit center at the conclusion of the ceremony.
During the ceremony, the names of the 64 Routt County residents who died in conflicts ranging from World War I to the Iraq War will be read. That number includes 21 service members from Routt County who died in World War I, 36 who died in World War II, four who died in the Korean War, two killed in action in Vietnam, and Mark Lawton, who was killed in Iraq.
Maureen Hogue will sing “America the Beautiful” as the flag is lowered during the ceremony, and the event will include a traditional 21-gun salute and Taps honoring those who died.
The first Memorial Day in Steamboat Springs was in 1922 when 26 members of newly formed American Legion Post gathered in front of the courthouse — now the Lorenz building — for a patriotic speech, and then marched to the cemetery where they decorated the graves of four veterans.
Hal Matthes, commander of American Legion Post No. 44, said this will be his final Memorial Day in that position. In July, Leif Myhre will take over.
“These events make you aware that there are people serving today that are out there who are, potentially, in danger every day,” Matthes said. “It’s a chance to show appreciation for those that are serving today, as well as appreciate those that served in the past.”
Schedule of events:
Friday May 26
6 p.m. — The public is invited to join the American Legion Post 89 placing American Flags at the Hayden Cemetery.
Memorial Day (May 29)
5:30 p.m. — American Legion Members participating in the service meeting at the Hayden American Legion Post, 220 S. Third Street. Public is invited.
6 p.m. — Memorial Day Services at the Hayden Cemetery. Public invited.
6:30 p.m.— Memorial Day dinner at the Hayden American Legion Post, 220 S. Third Street.
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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