I try and be here and hold flags and celebrate their lives. They give their all and we need to do the same. —Teena Nemelka
SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns celebrated Memorial Day Monday at events across the state by honoring the sacrifice of those who have served in the armed forces.
Shaun Fackrell, a pastor and assistant director for the Salt Lake City Mission, was grateful for the warm weather that welcomed a number of veterans who were honored at a Pioneer Park picnic.
"The weather is beautiful after it's been raining for a few days," Fackrell said. "Today, we're spending Memorial Day with some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. We share the holidays with them because they don't have anywhere to go."
Fackrell said it was important to remember the sacrifices of those who serve and have served.
"They served our country, so we want to serve them," he said.
At Utah Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park in Bluffdale, people gathered to remember the lives of fallen soldiers. Gov. Gary Herbert spoke at the event, and families reflected on the sacrifice their loved ones made. Raye Nielsen brought flowers to the grave of her husband, Pete Nielsen, who served in World War II.
"We had many heroes in the second World War, like we do in every war, but (my husband) really believed in what he was doing," she said.
Nielsen said her husband wanted to be buried with other veterans because there is a strong camaraderie between those who serve.
"I already had a plot for us, but he wanted to be buried here to be with his buddies," she said. "There was a camaraderie, such a love of brotherhood between them all; whether they were Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps or whatever, he really had a special feeling for the military."
Teena Nemelka, the mother of Aaron Nemelka who was shot and killed at the mass shooting at Ft. Hood in November 2009, said she celebrates the lives of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.
"I try and be here and hold flags and celebrate their lives," she said. "They give their all and we need to do the same."
Nemelka said despite the loss of her son, she is happy for his service.
"He was out doing something he loved," she said. "He was happy to be where he was and was excited about serving his country. I would not have changed that for anything, even after what happened."
In West Jordan, the American Legion hosted a Memorial Day tribute where Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke about the freedoms we enjoy because of the sacrifices of those who serve.
"This is a very sacred day to all of Utahns and certainly all of us Americans, because we know how many young men and women died for us so that we might have freedom," Hatch said. "We have freedoms no other nations in the world have, and it's all because of the people right from the beginning, the revolutionary days, right on through to these days in Afghanistan, when our young men and women fought for freedom."
Although many remembered the lives of fallen soldiers Monday, the Perry children were able to see their dad, Robert Perry, who returned from his fourth deployment in Afghanistan Monday.
"This is a very special Memorial Day," Perry said. "I'm here acknowledging there's guys out there in harms way right now defending our freedom, so I appreciate it."
Contributing: Emiley Morgan