Remembering those who served
Ceremonies in Steamboat, Hayden, Oak Creek, Yampa mark day of remembrance
For many people in the community Memorial Day is the official kickoff of summer, but for veterans like Jim Stanko, Ken Montgomery and Steve Dunn, next Monday’s remembrance is a chance to memorialize and honor those who served.
“It’s such a big day because it is a chance for the living veterans to honor and remember the sacrifice of the ones that have gone before,” said Jim Stanko, adjutant for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4264 and American Legion Post 44. “It’s our obligation, until there’s only one of us still left standing, to honor the men and women that went before us.”
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was established in 1868. Steamboat has marked the day for a century.
“We started in 1922, and every year we do something different for our readings,” Stanko said. “This year, because it’s 100 years, we’re going to do a reading for one soldier from each war that was killed or died from Steamboat and Routt County.”
Among those men, 2nd Lt. James Noyce was the last Steamboat serviceman to die in World War I. He was the first aviator from Steamboat Springs. He died in an airplane accident on Oct. 18, 1918, while training in Mokone, Arkansas.
The posts will also honor Sgt. Michael Dorr, the last Steamboat serviceman to die in World War II. Dorr was killed April 11, 1945, while while fighting in Unna, Germany, less than a month before the war ended in Europe.
He received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service and was buried in Margraten at the World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.
Pfc. Ben Ehli was the first Steamboat serviceman to die in the Korean War. He attended Steamboat Springs schools until he enlisted.
He was killed Sept. 15, 1950, during the battle of Inchon in North Korea, where he was serving with the 38th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Purple Heart, along with many other medals and citations.
Stanko said Pfc. John Viapando was the first Steamboat serviceman to die in Vietnam. The 19-year-old was killed by small arms fire on Dec. 7, 1968, near Dong Tam in the Kien Province.
The posts will also honor Army Staff Sgt. Mark Lawton, who is buried in the Hayden Cemetery. He was killed Aug. 29, 2003, after his convoy was ambushed while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In addition to those men, Stanko said this year’s ceremony will also include Arlo Lott Jr., by reading his medal citation. Lott, who was known as JR, walked into the US Marine Corps recruiting office the day after 9/11 and served two tours of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lott passed away April 17, 2022, from injuries he suffered in a climbing accident in Utah.
The Steamboat’s Memorial Day ceremony is a popular holiday tradition and normally draws a good-sized crowd to the cemetery. This year’s ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 30, and spectators are asked to arrive at least a half hour early for the events.
There is limited parking at the venue, and people are asked to park at the transit center and take buses to the event. The first bus will begin loading at 9:30 a.m. and the last bus to the venue will leave the transit center at 10:30 a.m.
This year’s events will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 26, when the local members of the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of USA join veterans in putting flags on the graves of service members. The events will continue at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 28, with the flag retirement ceremony at Warhorse Ranch. On Memorial Day, the events will move to the Steamboat Springs Cemetery.
Oak Creek and Yampa
In Oak Creek, Montgomery said American Legion Bird-Howe Post 189 will begin Memorial Day at 11 a.m. with a ceremony at the Yampa Cemetery, where the names of the veterans resting there will be read. A similar ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. in Oak Creek.
“There are usually quite a few people there, and it’s pretty big day,” Montgomery said. “We’re just hoping we can get enough people to pull it off because our post is shrinking.”
Community comes together in Hayden
In Hayden, events will begin on Friday, May 27, as flags are placed on the graves of veterans at the Hayden Cemetery.
Then at 6 p.m. Memorial Day, there will be a ceremony followed by a community dinner with hot dogs, burgers and chips at the post, 220 S. Third St.
Steve Dunn, adjutant for American Legion Post 89, which is named after Benjamin Hofstetter, said it will be a great chance for members of the community to come out and visit with post members.
“We’ll have the usual honors — the 21-gun salute, the folding of the flag and probably the speech by the commander,” Dunn said. “It’s a big deal to the post because we really like to honor those that have served before us, and someday, hopefully the people in the post will be honoring us.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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