Our View: Salute to veterans
May 28, 2011
Steamboat Springs — It looks as if Memorial Day weekend will come and go without the clear, sunny skies that encourage the barbecues, neighborhood get-togethers and general outdoor revelry that have become the hallmark of the three-day holiday weekend celebrated across our country. So be it.
Memorial Day and the weekend that it follows mean little if we don't take the time to stop and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by more than 1.3 million American men and women dating back to the Revolutionary War and stretching through every armed conflict since.
Monday will mark the 143rd Memorial Day celebrated in our country. The national holiday has its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War when women gathered to mark the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. More than 25 communities across the country lay claim to the first such ceremony in the spring after war ended. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially declared Waterloo, N.Y., as the birthplace of Memorial Day in honor of a ceremony held there on May 5, 1866.
The first official event came in May 1868, when an organization of former Union soldiers established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to use flowers to decorate the graves of the war dead. On May 30, the first large observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremony.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day an official holiday.
On Thursday, a group of local Steamboat veterans joined Boy Scouts in placing American flags on the graves of veterans buried in Steamboat Springs Cemetery. Similar duties were carried out at cemeteries in Hayden, Yampa, Oak Creek and elsewhere throughout Routt County.
Those flags marking the graves of deceased veterans set the stage for official ceremonies taking place Monday in Steamboat, Hayden and Yampa. We encourage each of you to take a few minutes from your day to attend one of the local ceremonies.
In Steamboat, a group of veterans is this year highlighting the contributions of local servicewomen. Nine women in particular have been highlighted and serve to represent all Routt County women who served their country.
Routt County has a rich history of men and women who answered the call of duty, and some who met their fate on foreign battlefields. This weekend serves to honor them. There will be plenty of time afterward for barbecues and entertainment.