Yampa residents honor veterans who gave ‘last full measure’
YAMPA — It took a visit to a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial in another country for Yampa resident Eric Berry to truly realize the importance of Memorial Day back home.
A mission trip in 2000 took Berry to Russia where he was able to attend a memorial ceremony dedicated to the more than 8 million Russian soldiers killed during World War II.
“It brought a lot of things to life that I thought I had been taught in school but hadn’t,” Berry said.
Since returning from the trip, Berry has never missed a Memorial Day ceremony at the Yampa Cemetery, which has 114 known veteran graves and memorials.
“You grow up with some of these men, and I didn’t even know they served,” Berry said. “It wasn’t something to be talked about or glorified.”
American Legion Bird-Howe Post 189, which has about 46 members, hosts the Memorial Day ceremony in Yampa each year. The Post is named after Sgt. John Harvey Bird and Private First Class Wesley Francis Howe.
Bird was the first of two Yampa residents to die in World War I. He was killed at France’s Battle of Soissons in 1918.
Howe was the first Yampa resident to be killed during World War II. He died in 1943 in Italy. After his death, he received the Distinguished Service Cross.
Among the American Legion members who attended Monday’s ceremony in Yampa, which honored those who were killed while serving their country, was Yampa resident Gary Burkholder.
“They gave their last full measure going to protect their country and values,” Burkholder said after the ceremony, referring to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Burkholder served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He said he worked as a semi-truck driver in the “world’s largest junkyard hauling blown-up tanks.”
Yampa resident Joe Edwards served as sergeant of arms during the ceremony. He had a 20-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he worked as a drill instructor and a mechanic working on C-130s.
About 50 people attended the ceremony at Yampa’s picturesque cemetery.
“It’s really nice, and I think we do a good job,” said Deanna Berry, who serves as the Yampa Cemetery District’s secretary.
This year, the American Legion specifically recognized those who served in World War I, which ended 100 years ago.
There were 22 Routt County residents who died while serving in World War I, including two residents from Yampa, Bird and Willard Leighton Brown.
Brown’s gravestone is located at the top of the circular gravel road. He was a Marine killed on the Champagne Front in 1918.
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