Graveside ceremony appears cancelled | ParkRecord.com

Graveside ceremony appears cancelled

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

On Memorial Day 2006, at least 100 people were counted marking the holiday at the Park City Cemetery. The year before, about 150 people gathered under a persistent drizzle at the cemetery on Memorial Day.

This year, however, it appears no organized ceremony will be held in Park City to mark the day, when America honors its fallen soldiers. midmorning Friday, people involved in organizing the ceremonies in previous years had not heard of one scheduled for Monday.

Several City Hall officials, including Mayor Dana Williams, who has spoken at Memorial Day ceremonies before, also had not been told of an event in the city. Others who have participated previously say they were not asked to this year.

The Park Record was unable to contact Robert Jarvis, the commander of the local American Legion, the veterans’ organization that usually organizes the Memorial Day ceremony. Al Stark, a veteran who put together past ceremonies for the local American Legion, was unaware of one occurring locally on Monday.

It is unclear how long the local Memorial Day tradition extends but if a ceremony is not held on Monday it would cancel what was a solemn event that drew a diverse crowd of veterans and regular Parkites, from kids to the elderly. The crowd was typically one of the largest to gather at the cemetery each year and the organizers designed a ceremony heavily influenced by national veterans’ leaders.

"As a veteran, it’s such a stirring thing," says Jim Santy, a 74-year-old Parkite who served on an aircraft carrier during the Korean War and attended past Memorial Day ceremonies. "I hope somebody will be able to step up to the plate."

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Memorial Day ceremonies have been especially poignant since 2001 and they have featured veterans of President Bush’s war on terror.

In recent ceremonies, there were lots of emotional moments and a few political statements. In 2006, Jarvis delivered a speech urging the audience to support a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag.

"Last year, my hope was people really took Memorial Day as a day to remember," says Cheryl Popple, a United Methodist pastor who has spoken at the ceremony before.

In 2006, Popple, whose son served in Iraq in 2003, recited the names of the Utah soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. She says she did not receive an invitation for a 2007 ceremony. Popple says military families sacrifice when soldiers are on duty.

"It’s very easy to forget there is a burden and a price to pay for our foreign policy," she says, adding that the service members are "owed our gratitude."

Park City has a tradition of military service but its links to the armed forces now are sporadic. Few young Parkites choose military careers and just three graduating seniors at Park City High School this year picked the service, according to school officials. It is unclear how many veterans live on the West Side.

Still, the Memorial Day ceremonies have drawn on the veterans and been inspiring to those who attended. The cemetery was decorated with American flags and the events were designed in a traditional manner. A squadron from the Civil Air Patrol would march to a flagpole to raise an American flag, the crowd would sing the National Anthem, pray and listen to a playing of "Taps."

Speakers delivered speeches about soldiers and military families. Williams in 2006 spoke about Americans’ changing attitudes toward soldiers, comparing the Vietnam War era to today.

"While we are deeply divided as a nation over the war in Iraq, we are unified in our respect for those who participate," the mayor said in his 2006 remarks on Memorial Day.

Santy, the Korean War veteran, says he encourages people on Memorial Day to remember the soldiers who have died and those who continue to serve. He says civilians deserve prayers as well since terrorism targets regular Americans.

"Pray for everybody who’s still engaged in combat and in the services," he says.