Steamboat Springs As veterans gathered on a hill to commemorate fallen American soldiers at Monday's Memorial Day observance at the Steamboat cemetery, their thoughts turned to hills they left behind in places like North Africa, Normandy and Vietnam.
"As I get older, it gets tougher," said Rick Turczynski, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars who fought in the Vietnam War. "It's hard to understand. Why am I here and they didn't get to come home?"
There are more than 250 veterans buried in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery, each of whom had their graves marked with an American flag on Monday. Many more Steamboat veterans "sleep beyond the seas," lying in graves in foreign countries.
More than 100 people gathered at the cemetery for the Memorial Day ceremonies at 11 a.m. Monday, tipping their hats and holding their hearts as the American flag was lowered to half-mast. The names of Steamboat veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the Civil War, World War I and World War II were read off during the ceremony.
A color guard bearing flags for POW's and MIA's, among others, marched across the cemetery to stand at attention before the American flag, followed by the somber bleating of a bagpipe. Another group of seven held rifles aloft and shot three rounds into the air to salute their fallen comrades. A group of boy scouts lowered the flag.
"This is how we honor all the people that give us our freedom," said Wayne Weber, a Vietnam War veteran.
Families laid wreaths on the graves of loved ones and others placed flowers on the graves.
Ty Upson, a marine who came to the ceremony in his crisp dress blues, said that while the event marked a sad reality, it was not necessarily a somber occasion.
"It's good to see people get the respect they deserve," Upson said.
Upson, along with members of the American Legion and the VFW, helped place the flags at the grave sites of veterans on Friday.
Nancy McQuarrie, whose father was a World War II veteran, said the recent coverage of World War II in movies and books has helped prolong the memory of those soldiers.
She said that with many of those veterans now passing away, it is important that they are remembered.
Not everyone was there to visit a fallen comrade or relative, however.
Mark Lehmann took his 10-year-old daughter Caitlin to the ceremony to allow her to see the graves of fallen soldiers and understand their sacrifice.
"I just like to explain what Memorial Day is about and how you should take pride in your country," he said. "As you get older you realize what freedom means and the importance of the people who paid the ultimate price for it."
Caitlin, who listened intently as her father gave a history lesson, seemed to understand the message he was trying to impart.
"I come here because I think it's right to observe the day of the soldiers who fought for us," she said.