Ceremony to honor fallen soldiers
May 27, 2006
A color perception deficiency prohibited Sergeant Jim Welsh from flying during the Vietnam War and relegated him to rifleman-infantry. His vision may suffer, but his eyes are seas where patriotism and experience sail.
"What we have here is superb," said Welsh, of Park City, on Thursday after discussing the hardships he saw and lived through overseas. "I’m more interested in kids being grateful for what we have."
Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have fallen for our country. The American Legion, a local group of veterans, will conduct their annual flag ceremony Monday at the Park City Cemetery.
"These people have kept our country safe and it’s only fitting that we give them tribute. They paid with sacrifice, we should do no less than to pay tribute to their sacrifice or someday we may all sacrifice," said Al Stark, Post and District Commander, who also served in Vietnam as a sergeant. "Freedom is not free, as long as we wish to attain freedom we have to stop the bully."
Welsh enlisted in Vietnam with 22 of his college buddies. Ten years later, only 11 made it home alive.
"I was enlisted for 1,089 days, 12 hours and 23 minutes, and then I was out of there. It wasn’t long to figure out I wasn’t going to like it."
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He didn’t like it but for him, serving in the military was worth it to protect America’s way of life. A smile stretches across his face when people spend time with family and friends at a barbecue or other recreation activities during the holiday.
"We serve so we can do that," he said.
Stark started the flag ceremony about 10 years ago after helping place flags at the Park City Cemetery with Rita Smith, who has been doing it for over 20 years. He was then placed as the post and district commander of the Legion. Smith organizes flag placement at the cemetery every Friday before Memorial Day. She and members of the Legion take flags to every veteran’s grave in the city. The oldest is an 1898 Spanish American War veteran. There are also a couple graves from the civil war.
Many veterans feel as Welsh and Stark do. They want people to remember the great price that was paid for their freedoms.
"We were patriotic when we enlisted, and the vast majority who received a honorable discharge remain patriotic," Stark said. "But, patriotism is not only for a veteran. Sometimes there are veterans that think it’s only theirs but patriotism is for all people."
When Stark attends public events that include the national anthem and the bearing of the stars and stripes, he observes the public’s reaction. Mostly, he said, he sees people with their hands over their hearts in reverence, but at times he observes individuals with an attitude of indifference staring away from the flag with their hands at their side.
"Some people won’t do it," Welsh said. "Those people have no right to complain about this country."
Rain interrupted last year’s observance, said Stark, but everybody stayed put and out of respect, no one went for cover out of respect.
"After you sit in the rain and water pours off your helmet into your mess kit and turns your potatoes and meat into mush and you still eat it cold; after that the rain doesn’t hurt at all," Welsh said.
Stark only asks that people remember and give a moment of respect to the fallen on Memorial Day, "It’s what they deserve," he said.
At 6 a.m. on Monday a member of the Legion will lower the Park City Cemetery flag to half-staff. At noon the Civil Air Patrol Thunderbird Squadron will raise the colors. Stark will greet the congregation followed by a prayer by Reverend Cheryl Popple, and an ode by Reverend Christopher Seddon. Mayor Dana Williams will speak followed by a tribute from Post Commander Robert Jarvis. The ceremony will conclude with everyone singing the Star Spangled Banner, a benediction by Popple and "Taps" played by a member of the Civil Air Patrol Thunderbird Squadron.
The Legion elected Jarvis as the new Post Commander. Stark will install his successor June 13.