Fallen heroes honored in Memorial Day services across Routt County
People across Routt County honored fallen service members at a series of ceremonies put on by veterans in each municipality for Memorial Day on Monday, May 30.
In Steamboat, the snow faded for an, at times, sunny service that paid particular attention to six fallen heroes who grew up on Yampa Valley ranches, attended Steamboat schools and were outstanding local athletes.
“I was one of the lucky ones — I came home,” said Bob Grippa, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “This is to honor the ones that didn’t come home and I think we have to do that, and I’ll do it as long as I am alive.”
When Grippa was younger, the significance of Memorial Day didn’t sink in as much, he said. Grippa, who laid a wreath at the memorial in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery on Monday, said his time in the Marine Corps has increased the day’s significance to him. He said he has participated in at lease a dozen Memorial Day services over the years.
“You don’t appreciate the risk involved and so forth when you’re doing it, it’s just like whatever you say I’ll go do it,” said Hal Matthes, a Vietnam veteran, and member of the honor guard for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4264 and American Legion Post 44 in Steamboat. “You get back and say, ‘Gee, I could have been killed.’”
Matthes said he felt, despite the ominous weather, a good crowd of people came out to the service in Steamboat.
“I have lost friends. I’ve been blessed not to lose as many as some others,” said Jeff Steck, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4264 and American Legion Post 44 in Steamboat. “(Memorial Day) is important to me just to recognize that we don’t forget them. … Some 19-year old kid, whose life is just getting started and it’s snuffed short and mine keeps going. I feel like I owe them something.”
The American Legion Bird-Howe Post 189 in Yampa held two Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday, with services honoring the fallen from both Yampa and Oak Creek. At each ceremony, legion member David Wolfson read off hundreds of names of those buried in the Oak Creek and Yampa cemeteries including a veteran of the Civil war.
Ken Montgomery, commander of American Legion Bird-Howe Post 189 said there were 177 names read in Yampa and about 200 of them read in Oak Creek.
“They stepped up when it was their turn to step up,” said Joe Zimmerman, who has been involved in several local posts and laid the wreath on the memorial in Oak Creek. “If these people hadn’t stepped up when their country needed them, we wouldn’t have a country today, so we have to remember that and honor that.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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