Remembering our Heroes

Events scheduled to honor Routt County's war veterans

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— Although there isn't an annual parade or party to honor the deceased patriots in Routt County, a dedicated ceremony and distribution of red poppies will send a slightly patriotic tone to the observed holiday.

Every year, members of the American Legion, the Women's Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Boy Scout Troop and others in the community provide a service for Memorial Day.

Along with visiting cemeteries for a rifle salute and prayer, the Women's Auxiliary will distribute red, handmade poppies at about noon Friday in front of Safeway and City Market in Steamboat Springs.

Betty Kemry, chairwoman of the Auxiliary's poppy distribution, said donations from the poppies will go back to veterans.

"If they want cigarettes, chewing gum or some cookies, whatever they want," she said.

Although she couldn't remember when the poppy distribution started, she recalled when people used to put dimes and quarters in the bucket now they put in dollar bills.

The Auxiliary will distribute 500 poppies.

Ken Montgomery of Yampa said the American Legion and the VFW have a program they follow for every Memorial Day at the cemetery.

"We'll do a service to the deceased veterans at the cemetery and provide a local minister," Montgomery said.

After a prayer for the deceased, Montgomery said rifles will be shot into the air about 21 times.

"It should sound like one shot three times," Montgomery said.

Lewis Kemry, Legion member for more than 50 years, said the three-round rifle salute is custom among the many wars with United States involvement.

This festive honorary recognition will take place at local cemeteries where Legion posts exist, Kemry said.

Legion posts exist in Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Yampa and Oak Creek, although Kemry said Oak Creek has become so inactive that people collaborate with the Yampa Legion post in honoring the deceased veterans.

On the night of Memorial Day, Lewis said a dinner for veterans and their families will be held at the VFW club.

Kemry said the Steamboat Legion post also will specially decorate the graves of soldiers along with the prayers and service at 11 a.m. Monday.

"The guys are gonna go to the local cemetery to place flags on all the graves," he said. "It's something to get people together, let them have a bit of thoughts of what's going on and what went on."

Kemry said about four to five soldiers from the Civil War are buried in Steamboat's local cemetery.

The day of honoring the patriotic dead began after the Civil War in the mid-1860s. A group of men gathered in Waterloo, N. Y., recognizing May 30 as the day to give thanks to these men.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was set aside to decorate soldiers' graves with wreaths, flowers and religious crosses. Flags were flown at half-staff and black streamers mourning the veterans' deaths floated through the town.

Although many towns claim to have established Memorial Day, historychannel.com claims in the mid-1960s, the U.S. government recognized Waterloo as the "Birthplace of Memorial Day."

Although Memorial Day began as a day to recognize the patriotic dead of the Civil War, every soldier killed in the wars that followed also are recognized in the 21st century.

Wars and soldiers killed will be remembered Monday for many of this country's major wars: the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War.

It wasn't until 1971 that Congress voted that Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, be recognized as a national holiday.

Currently, Waterloo provides its people with parades, speeches and observances in light of Memorial Day.

According to the VFW Web site, the significance of the poppy comes from the blankets of red that covered battle fields. Red poppies sometimes popped up in trenches and craters marking soldiers' graves.

History can be difficult for older and younger people alike because of a personal attachment that older people stay close to and that young people may not understand.

Kemry said it saddens him that many young people don't know of events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

"That's what we try to instill in these people," Kemry said of trying to reach the public with a better understanding.

Kemry is an army veteran from World War II who joined the American Legion in 1947, a year after he left the army.

Michael Condie of the Routt County Veterans Affairs said the number of veterans in the area is rising because the number of people in Routt County is increasing also.

"As of the 2000 census, there are 1,665 veterans. My job is to take care of the veterans of Routt County," Condie said.

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