In a time when most people are celebrating summer, Teller County residents paid tribute to the 96 members of Colorado's military who have died in the wars on terror. In a ceremony June 30 that highlighted the cost of war and those who pay the ultimate price, the traveling memorial, “Remember Our Fallen — Colorado,” reflected the theme.
“We want to recognize the Gold Star Families,” said Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley, referring to survivors of those who gave their lives in military service.
To date, 6,693 members of the American military have died as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, most of them having signed on after Sept. 11, 2001, said Brig. Gen. Dana Capozzelli, commander of the Colorado National Guard and a Woodland Park resident. “We are still at war, in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, so let's take a moment of silence to pray for them and their families.”
Less than 1 percent of American citizens serve in the military, Capozzella said. “It is up to us to ensure that our heroes, our loved ones, are remembered, that their stories are shared so that our country will never forget their sacrifice in ensuring that the other 99 percent are safe and free.”
This war on terror is different from past wars, said Norm Steen, retired brigadier general and Teller County commissioner. “We have sent our young men and women into battlefields to preserve not just our country but our very lives,” Steen said. “There are people out there who want to destroy our way of life. I'm glad there are still patriots alive who carry on the fight.”
Chuck Gardner, commander of the American Legion Post #1980, read a passage from a celebration that took place at the Vietnam Memorial. “Because of your service and your sacrifice we remain at liberty to enjoy our precious freedom and our American way of life.”
Among Woodland Park's fallen is Master Sgt. Richard Ferguson, who was killed in action in March 2004 during his fourth tour of duty with the Special Forces in Iraq. A Cub Scout leader, Ferguson considered service to his community a high calling, said city manager David Buttery.
As the day was set aside to memorialize the fallen, Turley recalled the death of the Boy Scouts Nick Naples, Alex Ragan and Paul Kekich, along with their leader Richy Kleiner, who were killed in a car accident June 30, 2012.
Contributing to the patriotic and somber occasion was vocalist Mia Troxell, 13, who sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace.” Her father, Brian Troxell, pastor of Church of the Nazarene, gave the invocation.
In addition to the city of Woodland Park and the American Legion, VFW posts 5061 and 11411 in Woodland Park and Lake George took part in the ceremony.