Ralph Barneck Jr. remembers when the Fort Douglas Cemetery was a plot of dirt without a fence outlining its perimeter. Now the cemetery is full of headstones that mark the graves of soldiers who have served in the U.S. military and their families.
For Memorial Day, Barneck and many other community members gathered around memorial sites such as the Fort Douglas Military Cemetery and the Veterans Memorial Park in West Jordan to honor the sacrifices soldiers and their families have made with prayers, a 21-gun salute and the playing of echo taps. Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Cannon, both R-Utah, and Gov. John Huntsman Jr. spoke at various services, all reflecting on the importance of each soldier's service and the foundation of freedom they have built.
"It is a solemn day, especially when we remember that there are now 40 men and women from Utah who have died during this terrible war on terrorism and of course the countless others who have died in prior wars," Hatch said. "However, as we remember each of these heroes who have volunteered to serve their country in its hour of need I'm proud to say that the spirit of their commitment to service will continue here at Fort Douglas."
During the services Hatch reflected on the stories of his family, friends and neighbors who have suffered the loss of a loved one because of war so that other citizens might enjoy the freedoms granted in the U.S.
In the Fort Douglas Cemetery, Barneck and his wife paused in front of Ralph Barneck Sr.'s grave to honor the deceased and leave flowers in remembrance.
Yet, not everyone at the services had family or friends who had served in the armed forces. Susan Hagen, Salt Lake County, woke up Memorial Day morning and decided to visit the cemetery even though she has never had a family member or friend serve in the military. Hagen said she wanted to appreciate the loss and sacrifice war brings, because it can't be done in front of a television or while barbecuing.
"I feel so bad for the families who have children or siblings fighting now," Hagen said. "I have to appreciate what they have done for us. Their sacrifice has given us this great country to live in, but everyone needs to take some time and think about what has been sacrificed, everybody."
Others in attendance at Memorial Day events used the ceremonies as an opportunity to teach their children about the cost of freedom. Dave Murphy, West Jordan, visited Veterans Memorial Park with his son to help the boy learn about freedom. Murphy said that the U.S. has survived from generation to generation because of the understanding that freedom isn't free.
At the park, Huntsman spoke on the costs associated with freedom and how their payment comes from the honor and valor of those in service and their families. The sacrifices that are made by soldiers serve as reminders of something more important then self, and that is the freedom and independence America stands for, Huntsman said.
For Marlett McKinney, a self-described Army brat living in West Jordan, Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor those who never returned or have been forgotten.
E-mail: [email protected]