For a few moments, the sounds of creaking ropes, muffled tears and flags snapping softly in the wind were all that could be heard at Steamboat Springs Cemetery.
As Civil Air Patrol cadets lowered the United States flag, the Prisoner of War flag and Missing in Action flag to half-staff in front of more than 200 people Monday morning, Steamboat Springs resident Lloyd Lockhart stood at full attention. What the tall, solemn Lockhart was thinking about is known only to him. But guesses are not hard to make.
Thirteen Steamboat Springs veterans have died since last year's Memorial Day:
Louis G. Gabos
Warren E. "Gil" Gilbertson
Perhaps it was the Battle of the Bulge, a month-long World War II battle that Lockhart fought in snowy Belgium forests as a young man, as a member of the 70th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. Perhaps it was the deep cold of that winter, 1944-45, or the booming sounds of the heavy artillery he fired as a gunner. Perhaps it was the 81,000 Americans who died in that battle.
Or perhaps Lockhart's thoughts were focused simply on honor, courage and remembrance.
"It couldn't have been any better," Lockhart said at the end of the Memorial Day ceremony, which he attended with his wife of 65 years, Annabeth Light Lockhart. "Jim does a good job."
Jim Stanko, Routt County's veterans services officer, organized the ceremony, held under a bright sun on a clear spring day.
"Today, all across the nation, people are gathered to honor those men and women (who have served)," Stanko told the crowd. "Let us remember them as good soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. ... They have made us their debtors."
State Sen. Jack Taylor, dressed in full Navy regalia honoring his service from 1957 to 1960, read the names of the 13 Steamboat Springs veterans who have died since Memorial Day last year.
"To all veterans, both living and passed on ... we say thank you for the role you have played in providing the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy and cherish ... but all too often take for granted," Taylor said.
Steamboat Springs Cemetery is a monument to people who did anything but take their country for granted. Taylor said the cemetery contains 12 graves for veterans of the Civil War, two from the Spanish-American War, 69 from World War I, 107 from World War II, 24 from the Korean War, 23 from Vietnam, 10 from the Cold War era and two from the Persian Gulf.
Their names were on display at the cemetery Monday, in framed documents that are kept all year at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Lincoln Avenue.
Their service and the service of all veterans was honored as 21 rifle shots ripped through the air, leaving a rolling echo that faded away and was replaced by the solitary bugle notes of "Taps."
As Maureen Hogue, daughter-in-law of deceased veteran Chuck Hogue, stood beneath the flags and began to sing "American the Beautiful," much of the large crowd stood and joined in, sending their voices across the cemetery.
"It's an honor to be here," said Civil Air Patrol member Crystal Fry, 18.