Ray Dileo photo
Veterans and their families honored with train ride,
and solemn salute
About 150 veterans, representing decades of service from World War II to the Iraq War, gathered at Memorial Park on Saturday in honor of area veterans and Blue and Gold Star families.
It was the second year in a row that the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Town of Silverton have put on the event, intended to be an uplifting experience that honors the sacrifices made by Veterans and family members in service to our country.
And Silverton resident and former fighter pilot Ray Dileo even arranged to have the Colorado Air National Guard to stage a thrilling flyover of two F-16s for the occasion.
“We remember them and thank each of you here today for your service,” Mayor Tookey said in welcoming the veterans and dignitaries who rode the train up from Durango.
Ronald Fogleman, retired Air Force Chief of Staff, was the highest-ranking military personnel on hand for the ceremony.
He thanked Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad owner Al Harper for organizing the event.
And he noted Harper’s military service as an air force maintenance officer, saying it gave him confidence that “he keeps the trains safe, too.”
Fogleman’s message: Eternal vigilance. That’s the mission of the U.S. military.
And those who serve need to be respected.
“I was always asking what we could do for the troops,” Fogleman said. “If asking us to serve in foreign lands make sure its worthwhile. And when we come home it would be nice if someone stepped up and said thank you. Al Harper did that.”
Retired Air Force TSgt. Scott Deeds, a father of fallen hero Marine LCpl Roger Deeds, acted as event’s master of ceremonies.
Deeds told of how he learned of his son’s death in Iraq.
It was Nov. 16, 2005.
“That day was unique,” Deeds said. He recalled that “a chill went down my back” at about 6:30 a.m.
“I knew my son was hurt.”
Then he heard the knock on the door.
“It’s been 11 years. Am I healed? Not by a long shot. Am I better? Yes.”
Deeds says he can at least take some solace that his son died fighting for “freedom of the United States and for people who never even had freedom.”
Also on hand was Air Force General Kathy Thomas.
“I normally cycle this event,” Thomas said, noting her participating in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
“Today we cherish all those young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Thomas said. She noted the origins of Memorial Day as Decoration Day, when women would decorate graves of Civil War veterans.
“Their sacrifice will always be appreciated and remembered. I salute each and every one.”
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said the country needs to support its veterans, including those suffering disabilities.
“The nobility of this nation the world has never seen,” Tipton aid. “Today, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, men and women of the military stand vigilant for this country around the world. Thanks, quite frankly, isn’t enough.”
And, Tipton added, “their families serve as well.”
At Monday’s Memorial Day observance, Ted Johnson of the Silverton American Legion Post #14, said “we reflect upon and honor all fallen servicemen in all wars. Those not with us because they died defending our country, and those still standing with us today. We honor all of our veterans.”