Hinsdale County’s first formally-sanctioned Veterans’ Day observance last Friday, November 11, dawned bright and unseasonably warm with a Color Guard standing at attention in front of newly inscribed granite momuments honoring the county’s Veterans. After opening remarks by Commissioner Cindy Dozier and Pledge of Allegiance by Destiny Willette’s Kindergarten and First Grade students, local U.S. Army Veteran Russ Brown issued a verbal salute to his fellow Veterans and briefly spoke on the heritage of military service in the Unites States, after
which Bill Goodwin concluded the ceremony by singing “Star Spangled Banner”. In his remarks, Russ Brown stood before Color Guard members Babe Vickers, Scott Campbell, Bob Angeli, Budd McDonald, R.S. Scott, and Steve Dozier. He remarked that this was the first official Veterans’ Day ceremony to be held in Hinsdale County within recent memory, characterizing military service as the “highest calling in life” and emphasizing the sense of “pride we have all felt serving our country.” Brown drew smiles in recalling “memorable events which all of us will never forget, such as meeting our first Drill Sargent,” as well as the “the privilige of serving with men and women from all walks of life.” Brown said that in his own lifetime, he had witnessed five armed conflicts in which the United States participated, starting with the Korean Conflict and extending through Vietnam, two Gulf Wars, and, most recetly, Afghanistan. A centerpiece of Friday’s observance was the new 7’-tall granite memorial which, according to Commissioner Dozier, will serve the county for the next century or more as the names of county Veterans are inscribed. The first series of names engraved on the memorial last week are George McDonald, William Horton, Dennis Cavit, Bruce Heath, Daniel McDonald, and Kip Yeager. Among the appreciative spectators on Friday were Kip Yeager’s father, Cebolla Valley resident Don Yeager, Dennis Cavit, and long-time Lake City resident Bud McDonald serving as a Flag Bearer and representing members of the McDonald family who have served in the Armed Forces. In Commissioner Dozier’s opening remarks, she extended gratitude to Alaska resident Don Craig for his “vision and foresight” in documenting the names of 200 county Veterans on the first granite memorial which wass dedicated in 2003. Dozier also thanked Bud McDonald for “getting the ball rolling” on the most recent granite memorial, and extended thanks to Veterans Service Officer Erin Cavitt and County Clerk & Recorder Linda Pavich for their extensive research documenting names which will be inscribed on the new memorial. She also thanked Wade Beisner, Building Official Jack Nichols, and “Courthouse Ladies” for care of Veterans Park, including raising and lowering flags, grounds maintenance, and rehabilitation of the park’s picnic tables and benches. Thanks were also extended to the San Diego-based firm Honor Life Memorials, which was represented at the ceremony by one of the firm’s owners, Joshua Willis, and Makana Afoa. Willis stated that the new memorial stone is Georgia grey granite from a quarry at Elberton, Georgia. The new Lake City stone weighs an estimated 5,100-lb. and measures 7’-tall by 3’-wide. The moment is anchored to a base with an embossed bronze plaque stating “Dedicated to the Veterans of all military branches, from Hinsdale County, that have served their country. Remembrance of their dedication, deeds, and supreme sacrifice exemplify their patriotism and loyalty to the United States of America.” Willis is enthusiastic as he describes his plans for continual upkeep on the Veterans’ Park memorials, including cleaning and polishing the brass plaque which was installed on the park’s first boulder memorial in 1992. Willis says the new 7’-tall granite marker was discounted to $9,000 . He says he and his firm are honored to take part in installing and maintaining memorials which reflect on the county’s residents who served their country. Willis also has a personal family connection to Lake City and the Lake Fork Valley. His father, Randy Willis, was born in Gunnison and later returned to the area for family vacations at Three Rivers Resort. As the Willis family gradually expanded, they purchased the lower Lake Fork Valley Ray and Anna Blaum home and 60 acres 11 years ago.