Durango salutes veterans

Biting cold can’t dampen excitement for holiday parade

Veterans Steve White, left, and Howard Richards lead the Veterans Day Parade on a chilly Sunday afternoon on Main Avenue. White and Richards served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Enlargephoto

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Veterans Steve White, left, and Howard Richards lead the Veterans Day Parade on a chilly Sunday afternoon on Main Avenue. White and Richards served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Biting cold and occasional blowing snow failed to keep hundreds of spectators Sunday from honoring current and former soldiers and sailors at Durango’s Veterans Day Parade.

Some 30 entries, ranging from a Ute Color Guard to the Durango High School Band to the Shriners’ miniature Tin Lizzies, followed the usual Main Avenue parade route from the train depot to Eleventh Street.

Robert Hedges of Redmesa brought his family, including his grandson, his mother, his wife and one sister to see the parade.

For Hedges, who served in both the Navy and Army, it is important to show support for service members.

“Look how many kids are here,” Hedges said, pointing to the youngsters marching in the parade. They were learning that “veterans are to be respected,” something not always common in the United States, he said.

Hedges has a son serving in Afghanistan and a nephew about to be deployed to Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Qatar is a staging area for action in parts of Africa, including Somalia, he explained. Another nephew also is serving, he said.

Hedges now serves in the all-volunteer U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Durango-Farmington unit, Flotilla 23. He assumes his role as commander of the flotilla in January.

Like many others marching in or watching the parade, military service runs in Hedges’ family. Both of his grandfathers were Marines and his father was in the Army.

Before the parade started, one participant, Robert L. Abrams of Durango, said Sunday’s parade was his 32nd. “Cold, rain or shine” wouldn’t keep him from marching this year, he said. Abrams served two tours in Korea.

Richard Schleeter, La Plata County veterans service officer, made sure he came down from his weekend hunting trip to be in the parade, mud spatters on his truck notwithstanding.

The National Weather Service had predicted a high temperature Sunday of just 29 degrees, with winds up to 15 mph.

Despite the cold, spectators waived American flags and cheered as each entry went buy. A number of parade watchers doffed their hats, especially when a group holding pictures of service people killed in action marched by.

State leaders also honored veterans. Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett issued statements during the weekend.

“Nearly one in 10 Coloradans have fought (for) and served our country,” Hickenlooper said in a news release.

“On this Veterans Day, and on every day, we are so thankful and very proud of our military veterans and those active duty or National Guard still serving here and overseas,” Hickenlooper said.

“We want to especially honor those who gave their lives for our country,” he added. “Their sacrifice is not forgotten.”

Bennett said, “With a growing number of Americans returning from war,” it is our duty to ensure our nation is ready to fully honor our veterans and their families with the support and respect they’ve earned.”

Colorado’s other U.S. senator, Mark Udall, noted on his website that Colorado is home to 400,000 veterans, more than half of the veterans in the Rocky Mountain West.

Udall said honoring veterans is not enough.

“Veterans Day is about more than just thanking these heroes for their service,” his website statement said. “It’s also about remembering how much we still owe them.”

Phil Manson of Durango carries a picture of his son, Pfc. Wyatt Manson, who returned to Colorado Springs three days ago after serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. Enlargephoto

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Phil Manson of Durango carries a picture of his son, Pfc. Wyatt Manson, who returned to Colorado Springs three days ago after serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Grace Rice rides on a float sponsored by the Durango Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4031 on Sunday afternoon on Main Avenue. Rice said she was braving the cold in honor of her deceased husband, Sherman Rice, who served in the U.S. Army. Enlargephoto

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Grace Rice rides on a float sponsored by the Durango Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4031 on Sunday afternoon on Main Avenue. Rice said she was braving the cold in honor of her deceased husband, Sherman Rice, who served in the U.S. Army.

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