Photo by Scott Franz
Rick Reinhard salutes Monday during the Memorial Day service at the Steamboat Springs Cemetery. More than 200 people attended the service to pay tribute to veterans.
Steamboat Springs At the bar at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue, the soldiers, dressed in crisp white shirts and black leather jackets, reminisced.
Three pilots sipped beers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon and talked about F-101 Voodoo fighter jets. Two Steamboat Springs High School buddies sat at a black leather booth and remembered the time they joined the Navy together in 1965. Dozens more men and women packed the bar to swap stories on this Memorial Day.
“We do not want to forget,” American Legion Post No. 44 Commander Buck Buckland said in the center of the comaraderie. The Air Force veteran emphasized each word.
“This is an opportunity to just have some relaxing discussion with vets in all different services,” he said. “Some of these guys risked their necks every moment they served.”
Charles Hixon, who served in the Air Force from 1955 to 1979, traveled all the way from Arizona to the Yampa Valley for the morning Memorial Day service. The former Steamboat resident said the local VFW post is a special place.
“I used to like to come in here and see the old-timers and to hear their good stories,” he said. “Now, I am an old-timer.”
The revelry at the old bar bookended the Memorial Day service in Steamboat. Veterans arrived at 8:30 a.m. to sip coffee and eat doughnuts. Then, they geared up for the annual ceremony that brought more than 200 people to the cemetery west of downtown.
The crowd watched as the veterans lowered an American flag. They listened as soldiers read the names of 51 Vietnam and Cold War-era veterans who are buried in area cemeteries.
Members of Steamboat’s Civil Air Patrol carefully placed helmets and dog tags on inverted rifles to honor Marine Lance Cpl. David Fogg and Army soldier John Vialpando, two Routt County veterans who were killed as teenagers in Vietnam.
“It’s a very proud moment,” Valerie Bussey, Auxiliary President for VFW Post 4264, said after she played taps on the bugle.
“When the ceremony goes on, you’re thinking of friends who are no longer with us,” Army veteran Gar Williams said after the service. “It’s a very emotional time.”
As crowds started to disperse, 6-year-old Levi Allen visited his great-grandfather’s grave. The boy said he liked the gunshots that honored the soldiers. His sister Leah, 8, liked “everything” about the service.
“It’s important to bring the kids every year because I want them to realize where freedom comes from,” their mother, Adonna, said. “We have to pay tribute to our troops.”
An hour later at the VFW bar, an old veteran said farewell to his fellow soldiers. He said he’d be back next year if he is still “kickin.’”
“Of course you will,” a younger veteran replied.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com