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At Fort Logan, veterans share what Memorial Day means to them

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Memorial Day at Denver's Fort Logan National Cemetery. Veterans share what Memorial Day mean to them, and perform a rifle volley for a fallen service member.
Members of the All Veterans Honor Guard perform a rifle volley at a military funeral, May 27, 2021.

DENVER — Americans are traveling in record numbers this Memorial Day weekend, eager for trips to the beach and maskless barbecues.

But at Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery, a group of veterans are working to ensure people remember the solemn origins of Memorial Day.

“When I think about Memorial Day, I think of coming to this place and thinking about my comrades that are here, the sacrifices that people that were and are in the military are making for our country,” said Stephanie Wells, a retired member of the Air Force.

Colorado VoicesWhat Memorial Day Means

Memorial Day is a day to remember those lost fighting for our freedom.

Wells was at Fort Logan on May 27 with a group from the Fort Logan All Veterans Honor Guard, an organization that performs rifle volleys at military funerals.

John Nahodyl, a retired USAF Tech Sergeant and chaplain for the honor guard, was with Wells.

“At places like Fort Logan and military cemeteries around the country, this is where we see the true cost of freedom. Because this is the true cost of freedom,” Nahodyl said, gesturing at the cemetery’s sea of white headstones. “And this is only a small portion.”

John Nahodyl at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Memorial Day dates back to 1868, when Americans started celebrating “Decoration Day.” It was a time to decorate the gravestones of fallen Civil War soldiers with flowers. As Nahodyl points out, it wasn’t until after World War I that the country started using the day to honor service members who died in all American wars.

Memorial Day became a national holiday in 1971.

According to a 2019 story from The Colorado Sun, the Fort Logan All Veterans Honor Guard was founded in the early 90s by three members of Lakewood’s American Legion Post 179. The ever-growing honor guard sometimes performs services at five military funerals in one day.

Members of the volunteer honor guard sometimes attend several funerals in one day.

More than 400,000 veterans live in Colorado. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show that nearly 1 in 10 Coloradans is a veteran.

At 214 acres, Fort Logan contains over 140,000 graves of veterans and their spouses.

“We honor those who have served our country and, to duplicate a cliché,” Nahodyl said, “Some gave all, all gave some.”


Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at brianwillie@rmpbs.org.

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