Golden remembers 'those who made the ultimate sacrifice' at annual ceremony

Memorial Day's always 'a beautiful time and a sad time'

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In the 25 years Brian Campbell has visited Golden Cemetery for Memorial Day, the number of large American flags surrounding the cemetery has doubled.

Each flag represents a veteran buried at the Golden Cemetery, with Campbell saying it’s gone from about 200 to 400 since he first served as American Legion Post 21’s commander more than 20 years ago.

Campbell, who’s taking over as post commander later this year, said he appreciates visiting the cemetery every Memorial Day with his American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars colleagues.

On May 30, American Legion Post 21 and VFW Post 4171 cohosted their annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony at the cemetery, honoring those men and women who died serving in the U.S. military.

“Memorial Day is a beautiful time and a sad time,” said Jill Freimann, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution's Mount Lookout chapter “… (We’re) honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

About 100 people attended the commemoration ceremony, which is more than organizers were expecting, VFW Post 4171 Chaplain Otto Smolik said.

The organizations haven’t held the event the past two years because of COVID-19, and it’s usually weather-dependent anyway. On May 30, while the sun was shining, the wind sometimes drowned out the ceremony’s speakers.

During the ceremony, participants also paid tribute to all the veterans who came back from service and have since died.

Brian Campbell and his wife, Kathleen, said their dads were in their thoughts on Memorial Day. Her dad saw active duty during the Vietnam War, and his retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving in World War II.

Larry Merkl, a VFW member, said his dad was also a World War II veteran. He said the annual ceremony is a great way to honor the veterans and those who lost their lives fighting for the United States.

Smolik recalled his parents and friends buried at Fort Logan, and a friend from high school who died in the Vietnam War.

Memorial Day was initially called Decoration Day, celebrated every year on May 30, when people would decorate the graves of servicemen and women. However, the holiday has changed over the years. Many people use it to remember all their loved ones who have died, not only the veterans.

For instance, Debby West trekked all the way from Longmont to visit her friend Ruth Halazon’s grave at Golden Cemetery.

As the VFW and American Legion members were putting away items from the commemoration ceremony, West and her family visited Ruth and Rudolph’s graves in the cemetery’s veterans section to place flowers and pay their respects.

Ruth died in 2020 and was buried next her husband, Rudolph Halazon, a World War II veteran who died several decades ago.

West said Ruth visited Rudolph’s grave every Memorial Day. When Ruth remarked that no one would visit hers after she died, West promised she would.

Likewise, Conifer’s Mary Lou Jespersen and her family typically visit her parents’ graves at the cemetery on Memorial Day.

Jespersen’s dad flew planes in World War II, and his family had a tree planted near his grave shortly after he died. The tree is now dozens of feet tall, providing a peaceful, shady spot over her parents’ final resting places.

“I love this cemetery,” Jespersen said. “It’s so quiet and peaceful, and they do it up so nice for Memorial Day.”

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