Remembering fallen soldiers

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When the sun rises Saturday morning, it will shine on more than 150 small flags in Hayden Cemetery.

Members of the American Legion in Hayden will place the flags on the gravestones of veterans and soldiers who served their country.

"On Memorial Day, you will not believe how many flags there are," said Sam Haslem, a Korean War veteran and Legion member.

Legion members and residents will gather to commemorate those who fought for freedom in a flag-lowering ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday.

There will be many people to remember.

Soldiers from nearly every major American conflict -- including the Spanish American War, the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq -- are buried at the cemetery.

A group of seven veterans and legion members gathered Monday at the Hayden Cemetery, stopping at headstones and recalling stories of comrades, family members and distant heroes who fought and sometimes died for their country.

Among the soldiers they recalled was Benjamin J. Hofstetter, a Hayden resident who died fighting World War I. The Hayden American Legion post is named for Hofstetter, who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

His name, and the name of other soldiers and veterans buried elsewhere, cremated or missing in action are posted on an American Legion Memorial plaque at the Hayden Cemetery.

These men are a reminder of why residents -- amid picnicking and fishing -- should stop for a moment to appreciate not just the extra day off but, more importantly, those who protected the freedoms Americans enjoy, legion members said.

"I sometimes wonder if the general public cares," said Forrest Frentress, a World War II veteran. "They are more interested in getting the boat out on the lake."

In addition to remembering soldiers who sacrificed their lives in war, Memorial Day also is an opportunity to remember living veterans. And it's never too late to say thank you.

Vietnam veteran Ron Staudt recently received a certificate of appreciation during an event at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Craig. The honor meant a lot, after years of withstanding criticism for veterans' role in the controversial war, he said.

"I'm very proud of this," Staudt said. "I was in Vietnam, and they finally recognized me."

At the flag-lowering ceremony, Christine Epp will play Taps, and legion Chaplain Ron Nereson will say a Memorial Day prayer. Mosquito repellant and/or long sleeves and pants are recommended for those who plan to attend.

A hamburger dinner at the American Legion on South Third Street will follow the ceremony. All residents are invited and may bring a salad or dessert if they wish.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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