Today at noon, Basalt resident Dan Glidden will stand before the half-raised American Flag at the Roaring Fork Valley Veterans Memorial for the 26th time.
He’ll welcome valley residents to an annual ceremony honoring those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. He’ll reflect on the year 1987, when he and his friend Chuck Cole established the Aspen memorial to honor fallen veterans, and began the traditional service.
The afternoon of remembrance will include a roll call of Aspen service members killed in action, along with an open forum portion when locals can speak publicly about deceased veterans they have known.
Carbondale resident and former U.S. Marine Adam McCabe will tell the crowd about his Purple Star Project to help returning veterans transition back to civilian society.
“Veterans are not equipped and educated to return,” said Glidden, who served four years in the U.S. Navy and worked in psychological operations across Vietnam during the war there in the late 1960s.
He and McCabe will discuss ways to reduce the suicide epidemic among vets returning from combat.
“Twenty-two vets commit suicide every day, and we are going to bring that up,” Glidden said.
Dick Merritt, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and Basalt resident who has been active in local veterans affairs for 20 years, will join Glidden to discuss the “Huts for Vets” program that the two are launching in partnership with local writer Paul Andersen.
The project, to begin this summer, will take veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on retreats to the area’s 10th Mountain Division Huts.
“We hope to get them back into nature and back into reality,” said Glidden.
To compliment the ceremony, Grassroots TV is broadcasting a continuous stream of the 58 interviews with local veterans that Merritt has conducted for the U.S. Library of Congress.
The Aspen Memorial Day ceremony has attracted a growing number of people in recent years, and Merritt attributes the increase to the ongoing U.S. conflicts in the Middle East.
“The attendance has become larger as people realize the impact of losses in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “The crowd has probably gotten up to 150 on a nice day.”
A picnic at Conner Park will follow today’s ceremony. The local chapter of the Elks Club, a group that serves veterans nationwide, will provide the food, and the event is free and open to the public.
“I heard last year that they served over 400 lunches,” Glidden said.
Glidden emphasized that all are welcome to the ceremony, and that the term “veteran” applies to everyone who has served in any capacity, not just to those who have seen combat.
“This ceremony is for everyone,” he said. “If you have put your own uniform on, you are in combat. Memorial Day is not about barbecuing and tailgating, it’s about remembering those who died serving their country.”
• 12 p.m. at the Roaring Fork Valley Veterans Memorial, on the east side of the Pitkin County Courthouse at 530 E. Main St.
• The pledge of allegiance, the presentation of the U.S. memorial wreath, remembrance of Aspen service members killed in action, and numerous other presentations will be followed by a moment of silence at 3 p.m.
• A community picnic sponsored by the Aspen Elks Lodge #224 will be held after the ceremony at Conner Park.
• All are invited; veterans are encouraged to wear military memorabilia.