Memorial Day 2010

Fort Logan honors fallen soldiers

By Ernest Luning

DENVER — Thousands of family, friends, fellow veterans and service members gathered at Fort Logan National Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who “served, sacrificed and died on the outposts of freedom.” The 78th Ceremony Honoring Fallen Soldiers included speeches, songs and silent remembrance amid row after row of headstones, each marked with an American flag.

Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“To those who made the ultimate sacrifice, who gave their lives to defend and protect the country we love, the country we believe in, we will never forget you,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who delivered the keynote address. Bennet’s speech capped a statewide tour devoted to the concerns of veterans, including health care and how the Veterans Administration is handling claims.

Nearly 100,000 deceased veterans and military members who died on active duty are interred at Fort Logan, one of 131 national cemeteries maintained by the Veteran Administration. Across the country, the VA sponsored Memorial Day services honoring the roughly one million American military who have died during wartime and millions of veterans who have defended the nation.

In a ceremony that was by turns solemn, sad and stirring, the Associated Veterans of Colorado displayed a full range of honors for the fallen at Fort Logan under a flag that flew at half staff. Representatives from Ladies Auxiliaries and a Gold Star Mother presented bouquets of flowers at graveside services. Music filled the air, including patriotic tunes rendered by the Colorado VFW Band and the Littleton Community Band, singers and a bagpiper, and members of Buglers Across America scattered throughout the crowd sounding Taps.

Marines stand at attention near the grave of a fallen comrade after sounding a 21-gun salute at Memorial Day ceremonies at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“They paid the ultimate price for freedom, and we honor them,” said Lynette Roff, director of the Eastern Colorado Healthcare System for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “They bore the weight of our national values and our ideals. Their strength became our strength.”

Roff’s remarks were interrupted briefly by the flight overhead of four F-16s in formation. Minutes later, a lone pelican flew more lazily across the nearly cloudless blue sky, a visual reminder that last year’s ceremony ran up against a torrential downpour that chased away all but the abundant waterfowl.

Reminding those assembled that Memorial Day wasn’t just about past wars and veterans long laid to rest, Roff talked about soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Most come home to joyous reunions with their friends and family,” she said. “Others come home with wounds, visible and invisible, that mark what is sometimes a tragedy of armed conflict. Still others return in solemn, eternal repose under a draped American flag.”

Bennet noted that the cemetery’s namesake, Civil War veteran General John Logan, proclaimed May 30 as a national Day of Remembrance, nearly 100 years before the day was officially named Memorial Day in the 1960s.

“Logan’s words were not only a reminder, to all Americans, of the true cost of freedom,” Bennet said, “but a warning to his and future generations to never forget the sacrifice of those who have borne the true cost of battle — words that we should remember, and to which we should work to provide deeper meaning here today.”

Roff's voice breaking slightly, she summed up the sentiment evident at the ceremony. “However we remember them individually,” she said, “we remember them all as heroes.”