Parkites mark Memorial Day |

Parkites mark Memorial Day

Speaking in front of an appreciative crowd at a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, the incoming commander of the local American Legion pleaded with the audience to support a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag.

The comments from Robert Jarvis were unusual for Park City’s annual Memorial Day ceremony. Such politically charged issues normally are not prevalent during the local ceremony. Jarvis said afterward that the national American Legion drafted his speech.

The speech, which Jarvis followed closely when he delivered his remarks, included statements about the sanctity of the American flag, said most Americans want the flag protected and criticized the Supreme Court, which has held that desecrating the flag is allowed through constitutional free-speech rights.

"Hundreds of thousands have given their lives over two centuries of American history," Jarvis said, reading from the prepared statement, noting that the colors of Old Glory stand for patriotism and that the flag, "embodies our love of God and country."

Jarvis said during the Park City Cemetery ceremony he wants Americans to urge senators to support a flag-desecration amendment and claimed that the supporters are on the cusp securing enough votes.

His comments were made during a ceremony that drew at least 100 people, according to organizers, to listen to speakers, hear patriotic songs and walk among the graves, which were decorated with American flags.

Four members of the Civil Air Patrol marched to a half-mast flag at the cemetery, saluted and raised the flag, the Rev. Cheryl Popple delivered brief remarks in which she spoke about a cousin killed during the Vietnam War and said the holiday, "shouldn’t be an easy day." Al Stark, the district commander of the local American Legion, broke down and stepped away from the podium while speaking about the POW-MIA flag.

Mayor Dana Williams said that Americans’ views of war have changed since Vietnam, claiming that, as the Iraqi war continues, the country has not turned against the troops.

"While we are deeply divided as a nation over the war in Iraq, we are unified in our respect for those who participate," Williams, reading from a prepared statement, said.

He acknowledged the return of John Lambert, a reservist commander in the Navy, from a tour of duty in Kuwait and Iraq.

In an interview after the ceremony, Williams disagreed with the statements from Jarvis regarding an amendment to protect the American flag from desecration but said he would not take part in the practice. He said he was not surprised that the issue was raised during the ceremony.

"I think that, having been in the service, he has every right to his opinion," Williams said.

The ceremony drew Adam Kelley, a 21-year-old who graduated from Park City High School in 2004 and now serves in the National Guard. Kelley said he signed up for the National Guard in March 2005 because he grew up in a military family.

He compared the American presence in Iraq to France’s role in the Revolutionary War.

"They were oppressed people," he said about Iraqis. "One time we were too."

Outfitted in the Army’s dress greens, worn on special occasions, Kelley said he expects to be deployed to Iraq, possibly in 2007, and said he is willing to die for Iraq’s freedom.

"It’s something in the blood when it comes to war," Kelley said.

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