Park City veterans remember the fallen on Memorial Day, sharing stories with Main Street diners
Group forgoes the traditional cemetery gathering in favor of reaching the holiday-weekend crowds
Park City-area veterans on Monday marked Memorial Day on Main Street with stories of members of the military who died in combat or whose death was the result of an accident while serving, opting for the busy shopping, dining and entertainment strip instead of the traditional graveside setting at Park City Cemetery.
The event did not resemble the annual Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery, which, for the second consecutive year, did not occur amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead of salutes and the somber notes of taps, the people who participated on Monday held a free-flowing event that was organized by the Park City post of the American Legion, the same group that usually holds the cemetery event.
The group of approximately 20 people walked along Main Street with little other than an American flag to signify the connection to Memorial Day. The group stopped at the Main Street dining decks, crossing the street when need be to reach the next one.
Members of the group told stories to the diners of people with whom they served in the military. Some of the diners appeared to be surprised as the people in the group approached, announced their intentions and then spoke. Many of the diners seemed to listen intently, putting down their utensils, and expressed appreciation for military service and the veterans who walked Main Street. In some cases, staffers at the restaurants appeared to briefly stop to listen to the group alongside the diners.
The people at one of the dining decks heard the story of a soldier killed in Iraq while at another one the diners listened to comments about the loss of members of the military to suicide and accidents in addition to combat deaths.
“Remember the real purpose of Memorial Day,” Glenn Wright, a member of the Summit County Council who has long been involved in the Park City post of the American Legion, told the diners at one of the decks.
At some restaurants he spoke to the diners from the sidewalk while in other locations he walked onto the dining decks themselves to speak.
Wright is a Vietnam War veteran and spoke about a pilot who was shot down during that conflict. Others talked of having to bury too many soldiers, spoke of a training accident death and asked that the fallen be remembered.
The event was held on a brilliant late-spring day in Park City and with the length of Main Street crowded on the last day of what was a packed holiday weekend in the community. The setting on a Main Street that was largely lighthearted on Monday contrasted sharply with the traditional Memorial Day gathering location of the cemetery, with flags decorating the graves on the day and a somber atmosphere of tribute to those lost.
Retired bomber pilot TJ Eaton, a Snyderville Basin resident who spent 20 years in the Air Force, attended the event on Monday with his wife, who is an Air Force reservist, and their three children ranging in age from 6 to 12. Their 6-year-old carried an American flag at the lead of the procession. Eaton recalled a friend in the Air Force who committed suicide after serving in Afghanistan.
He said he was “very proud” of his son carrying the flag on Monday. The Eatons want to instill their children with “duty and patriotism,” he said, explaining that the typical young child was not walking Main Street to mark Memorial Day.
“I can give an hour or two today,” Eaton said about the family’s attendance on Monday, talking of the significance of the day when the U.S. honors the nation’s war dead. “They’ve given their lives.”
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