Veteran on Memorial Day: ‘Freedom ain’t free’ |

Veteran on Memorial Day: ‘Freedom ain’t free’

Mike Peterson came to Utah more than 50 years ago and was stationed at Hill Air Force Base. He was there for one year before he was sent to Saigon, Vietnam in 1965.

Although he was trained to be an aircraft mechanic, Peterson was switched to flying status he said "because I understood the instrument panel."

As a flight engineer, the now 73-year-old Coalville resident was a noncommissioned officer in the Air Force. During his four years of active duty, Peterson said he did "more flying than working on airplanes."

In years past, Peterson has gone back to Ohio for Memorial Day. At the services, he said the American Legion veterans would visit three different cemeteries to salute the veterans that were buried there.

About five years ago the format gave him an idea for something the members of Post 93 of the American Legion in Coalville could do locally.

"If they can do three cemeteries, we should be able to do six," he said.

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Every Memorial Day since then, area veterans have performed a gun salute and played the military piece "Taps" at cemeteries in Henefer, Echo, Upton Wanship, Hoytsville, and Coalville.

This year’s service will start at 8 a.m. at the Wanship Cemetery. The veterans will perform a gun salute as a short memorial at each of the five cemeteries. A longer program will take place at the Coalville Cemetery at noon and will include the commemoration of three World War II veterans.

Two years ago, the American Legion started honoring local veterans who were killed in action beginning with the Vietnam War. Last year, Korean War veterans were honored and this year the ceremony will commemorate World War II veterans.

After the program in Coalville, hotdogs will be served. Last year, approximately 200 people attended.

Coalville Mayor Trever Johnson, who will be giving the introduction to the program, said he is honored and privileged to be able to speak at the event.

"They do a really good job and I’m fully supportive of the program and honored to be a part of it," he said. "It’s humble, it’s somber it’s educational, and I’ve left every time being more and more grateful for those who have sacrificed.

"As we get more generations removed from conflict and the sacrifices that were born to preserve our freedoms, I think it’s important for the younger generations to pass on that history or legacy. I think it’s important on a lot of fronts and I encourage everyone to come out and be a part of it."

Albert Richins, an American Legion member in Coalville, said it is important, especially for younger generations, to be "reminded of the people who served and the sacrifices they made in serving."

Richins grew up in Coalville and served in the army from 1969 to 1971. He wasn’t sent to Vietnam, he said, because his brother was already there so Richins served at Fort Myer, in Virginia.

"We just today had a funeral for a World War II veteran," Richins said. "We are losing our veterans."

Sometime before Monday, American flags will be placed on the headstones of veterans at each of the six cemeteries.

"It’s a memorial to all the fallen soldiers that’s in the cemeteries," Peterson said. "There is an old saying, ‘Freedom ain’t free.’ And that’s because the freedom comes from the military that has served in all the different wars and skirmishes. This is just a dedication to basically commemorate all these people that give their lives for the freedoms we have today."

To view a list of Summit County’s veterans, go to