Hunter Hatcher picks up American flags Monday from graves in the Hayden Cemetery following the town’s Memorial Day service.

Photo by Scott Franz

Hunter Hatcher picks up American flags Monday from graves in the Hayden Cemetery following the town’s Memorial Day service.

Memorial Day service in Hayden hits right notes

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— It’s never easy for Christine Epp to play taps on her trumpet, and that was particularly true Monday night.

Epp plays the song at three to six funerals per year, sometimes in memory of people she knew well.

“But it’s not as hard playing for Memorial Day,” she said.

Minutes earlier, she had nailed the delicate notes as a small crowd watched and saluted in the Hayden Cemetery.

“It’s always an honor because the vets have provided such a great life for us,” she said.

American Legion Post 89 Commander Seth Huntington said Memorial Day was a day to reflect and focus on “who you’re with and who you’ve lost.”

At 6 p.m., the 28-year-old Iraq War veteran addressed the crowd at the cemetery on a breezy Memorial Day evening. From the podium, he talked about sacrifices made way beyond the Yampa Valley in conflicts that have claimed thousands of American lives. He told the audience to reflect on the heroism of Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, who in 2004 covered an enemy grenade to save his comrades in Iraq. Huntington said there are many ways to help veterans and their families here in the Yampa Valley.

“Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough,” he said as he read a speech prepared by the American Legion.

After the speech, the short service in Hayden continued with a ceremonial folding of an American flag. Epp then played taps as the audience saluted and paid tribute to the veterans. Then, many members of the crowd traveled to the Benjamin J. Hofstetter American Legion Post 89 on the other side of town to eat burgers and reminisce.

Some in the crowd said it was the first Memorial Day service they attended in Hayden. They wanted to come out in past years but didn’t make the time on the holiday weekend.

“It was simple, but it was relevant,” Hayden resident Mary Lou Graham said about the service. “It was good to say ‘thank you.’”

Vietnam-era veteran Charlie Epp, Christine Epp’s husband, said the annual service always is humbling. He said his father from Germany gained U.S. citizenship at the age of 19 and fought in Germany during World War II while his brother was on the other side of the battlefield. Epp’s son Alex has served two tours in Iraq and three tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger.

“There’s a lot of military history in my family,” he said. “Today, you just remember all of the men and women who gave their lives so we can enjoy our freedom.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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