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Services honor local veterans

— The graves in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery were decorated with flowers and American flags on Monday.

A large number of children, parents and grandparents paced through the markers, reading the names and paying respect to serviceman and women who have passed on.

At about 11 a.m., the crowd gathered around a flagpole waving the ‘stars and stripes’ under sunny skies.

They came to participate in the annual Memorial Day service held by the local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.

VFW and American Legion member Jim Stanko led the majority of the memorial service, reading standard addresses and a standard order for the ceremony.

They were the same words that were being repeated in countless other ceremonies around the United States on Monday.

“Because of them, our lives are free. Because of them, our nation is free,” Stanko said of the soldiers who fought for America’s freedom.

Stanko broke away from protocol to recognize six local veterans who have maintained the Memorial Day service in Steamboat Springs throughout the years.

They included Jim Dorr, Don Lufkin, Louis Kemry, Lloyd Monger and Bill May.

“For 50 years they’ve carried on this tradition,” Stanko said.

Preacher Kevin King was asked to speak a few words.

King humbly said finding something to say for such a ceremony is not an easy task when deceased servicemen lay in the hollowed ground.

“I realized I couldn’t make a greater contribution that already has been given,” King said.

King was able to find some words represent the mortal contributions.

They were from the poem “It is the Soldier,” by Charles M. Province.

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press,” King read.

“It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to demonstrate.

“It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. Who serves under the flag and whose coffin does the flag drape, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

The memorial service concluded with the names of local veterans being read, the traditional lowering of the American flag to half-mast, and a rifle salute.

“It was a good turnout,” Stanko said after the ceremony. “If one person came it would be worth it.”

Much of the crowd dispersed back into the rows of gravestones after the service, while others enjoyed the warm air and clear skies while sitting in the grass or walking around cemetery grounds.

Longtime local Eleanore Larson, who goes to the ceremony nearly every year, was walking along the road after the service.

“It was a very touching ceremony,” she said. “I’m very thankful that they (soldiers) have put up that barricade for us and our families.”

She said the sacrifice that servicemen and women is something that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“A lot was given,” she said. “A life is pretty precious.”