Memorial Day ceremonies honor fallen soldiers
May 31, 2016
As members of American Legion Post 93 raised the American flag above half-staff on Monday during the annual Memorial Day observance in Coalville, Army Veteran Earl ‘Sam’ Blonquist’s mind began to drift to memories of his uncle and childhood best friend.
Both men, Blonquist said, lost their lives while serving in the military.
"I have great respect for those who have served the country, in whatever capacity, and especially those who have lost their lives, including my uncle and best friend," Blonquist said.
The former North Summit High School teacher was one of several veterans to attend the ceremony at Coalville Cemetery. Blonquist, who is 75 years old and a Coalville resident, enlisted in the Army before becoming a military police officer in Georgia.
"I didn’t go overseas, but I was in Georgia at the time of the segregation," Blonquist said. "I didn’t realize how tough a time it was down in the South when I was there until many years had gone by."
Memorial Day ceremonies to honor fallen soldiers were held in Coalville and Park City on Monday, drawing crowds that included children, active-duty service members and veterans. The annual North Summit observance drew a crowd of more than 150 people. Major Robert Williams, of Hoytsville, delivered the afternoon address.
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In his remarks, Williams urged the audience to remember and honor the more than 1 million men and women who have died defending the country.
Members of Post 93 performed a gun salute and taps at cemeteries in Henefer, Echo, Upton, Wanship, Hoytsville and Coalville. Three World War II casualties, all graduates of North Summit High School, were honored as part of an ongoing effort by the members of Coalville’s post to recognize local soldiers who were killed in action.
Leaette Geary, a Coalville resident, said the holiday reminds her of the sacrifice made by those who have served. Geary said while she did not have any close family members die in battle, several have served in various branches of the military.
Gordon Hill, a retired Air Force Colonel who lives in Henefer, said he appreciated the number of people who attended the ceremony. Hill flew Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers during the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.
"It was a nice showing by the community and highlights the inclusiveness of both the veterans and families of those who have served," Hill said.
The solemn ceremony concluded nearly an hour after it began and featured a performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ by the White Peaks Centennial Pipe Band. Members of the audience sang along as the songs representing the branches of the military were played. Everyone joined in on the finale of "God Bless America."
For some, remembering their military service and the lives of lost can be a painful experience. Albert Clark, 82 years old and a Coalville resident, said his father, who served in World War I, distanced himself from the conversation for decades.
"A lot of it depends on their experiences and things like that if they had a bad military time, they don’t want to talk about it and relive it," Clark said. "I was one of the fortunate ones. I served from 1951-1968 in Korea and Vietnam as a petty officer, but I didn’t have a bad experience.
"Things have changed a lot now," Clark said. "We are dealing with an all-volunteer military and there is a lot of stigma with PTSD and what comes with that. Different things hold people back, but everyone should feel more welcome to participate. It’s a business that we all share in. We all share in the misery and happiness that comes from it."
‘Honor them every day’
A mixed crowd of veterans and others from the Park City area commemorated Memorial Day during a ceremony at the Park City Cemetery on Kearns Boulevard.
Approximately 80 people gathered to listen to speakers and songs as they contemplated the meaning of Memorial Day. Many of the graves were decorated with flowers and American flags. The crowd stood silent as taps played.
Glenn Wright, a Vietnam War veteran and the administrative officer of the Park City post of the American Legion, spoke to the crowd, recalling people in his squadron killed in the war and that their names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Tom Fisher, a colonel and brigade commander in the Utah Army National Guard and the Summit County manager, delivered an address touching on fallen soldiers stretching back to the Civil War. He said the holiday allows their sacrifices to be honored and Memorial Day holds a unique place in the United States.
" the way we live our lives we can honor them every day," Fisher said.
World War II commemorates
- Private Raymond Keith Lanier- Born in Salt Lake City, Lanier graduated from North Summit High School and the University of Utah for one year. He was assigned to the 853rd Engineer Battalion Aviation. Lanier was listed as missing after his convoy came under attack in 1943. He is memorialized in the North African American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia.
- Tech 5 Lee Powell Staley- Staley was born in Grass Creek, but later moved with his family to Upton. He graduated from North Summit High School. After enlisting in the Army, he fought in North Africa and Italy. He was killed in France in 1945 and is buried in the Coalville Cemetery.
- Sgt. George Milliner Boyer- Boyer was born in Coalville and graduated from North Summit High School. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces and served overseas. In 1944, he went missing during a mission over Holland. His body was later found. He is buried in the Peoa Cemetery.
– According to information posted on the Summit County website
To view a list of Summit County’s fallen veterans, go to http://www.summitcounty.org/696/Summit-County-Fallen-Heroes
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