Memorial Day in Riverton drew Veterans and patriotic crowd on a perfect morning

VFW Post 3628 Commander Gary Letchworth put a bugle to his lips for the playing of Taps at the conclusion of the Mountain View Cemetery ceremony. (Ernie Over photo)

(Riverton, Wyo.) – For the second  year in a row, Memorial Day events at Riverton’s Mountain View Cemetery were conducted under a brilliant blue sky, a warming bright sun, and a hint of a breeze with songbirds providing the background music. The cemetery was alive with activity this morning, with families and friends tending to loved ones graves, crisp small American flags fluttering in the light breeze on the graves of veterans, and over 100 spectators for a combined military service organizations salute to men and women who gave their lives while in the service of the United States Armed Forces.

Riverton Mayor and Vietnam Veteran Ron Warpness was the guest speaker, who said the day reminded him of threads on a loom. He said the work on the loom includes threads from events such as today’s, and all of the holidays. “It’s a loom of life,” he said, noting that “each of us weave our own threads of our lives, year after year, creating a tapestry of life, each in a different pattern.” He said such tapestries also exist for communities. “how we weave the thread depends on what kind of community we have. Our veterans have woven a beautiful tapestry by their sacrifices. Without their service, none of what we enjoy would be possible. They have paid the cost.”

“On this day, forever consecrated to our heroic dead, we are assembled once again to express sincere reverence,” said American Legion Department of Wyoming State Chaplain Alan Lambert, the Master of Ceremonies for the memorial remembrance. “This monument represents the resting places of  many departed comrades who served in all wars. Wherever the body of a comrade lies, there the ground is hallowed. Our presence here is in solemn commemoration of all these veterans, an expression of our tribute to their devotion to duty, to their courage and patriotism. By their services on land, on sea and in the air, they have made us their debtors-for the flag of our nation still flies over a land of free people.”

In turn, the opening invocation was delivered by Harold York, Vice Commaner of American Legion Post 19 in Riverton. Other presenters who paid tribute to the fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen included American Legion Commander Warren Hess, Friday-Truan Marine Corps League #683 Commandant Grant Clark, Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Commander Gary Letchworth, Boy Scouts Troop 44 Leader Bob Connelly, Disabled American Veterans Commander Don Ryan, American Legion Auxiliary’s Peggy Thiel, VFW Post 3628 Ladies Auxiliary’s Cerella Overgard and Suzzane Goff, from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Wreaths, flower sprays and individual flowers of red, white and blue were added to the monument saluting all from Fremont County who had given their lives in service to the country. An emotional Jim Ray, a VFW member using a walker, directed the placement of a white flower, a symbol of purity, and he choked up when he said, “May each future generation emulate the unselfish courage of all men and woman who fought for freedom.”

Veteran Keith Blankenship took the podium for a few minutes and related his experience in Korea on the front lines when he asked permission of a Catholic Priest if he could attend services there even though he was not a Catholic and that he was required to have his rifle at his side, loaded, cocked and ready for action. When he was told yes, he could attend, he said the Priest that day told the assembled soliders that it was hard to see God at work along the front lines. “But he is there with you and will always be with you.” That sermon resonated with Blankenship, he said, and it helped him get through the fighting and return home.

Iraq war veterans Erik Hollaway and Nathan Dodge along with veteran Doc Holliday presented the colors from 1868, a flag bearing 35 stars and the flag of the Grand Army of the Union. The trio was dressed in period post civil war uniforms. A former Riverton resident now living in Colorado, Hollaway said this was his second time at the Memorial Day ceremony recreating the Civil War uniform and colors. “I came up just for this,” he said.

During the ceremony, boys from Boy Scout Troop 44 stood at attention behind the flags of the services, the state and nation.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, members of the Marine Corps League performed a 21-gun salute and Letchworth held a bugle to his lips and Taps was played.