Since its founding, this country has seen 1 million-plus die serving and protecting it.
From the Revolutionary War through ongoing efforts to mute the threat of terrorism, the selfless sacrifice of service personnel is credited with keeping the United States a free and democratic nation.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Every year, this most solemn of veterans-related observances offers a grateful nation the opportunity to pause and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by so many.
As the Home of Heroes, Pueblo has long come out in full force for the traditional Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Bridge on the Riverwalk.
But with the prohibition against large-scale gatherings still in place, the community instead is invited to honor this country’s service dead from the comfort of their homes.
Starting at 11 a.m. Monday, the Pueblo Veterans Council Facebook page will host a remote Memorial Day ceremony that will replicate, as much as possible, the traditional in-person event.
The ceremony will begin with an opening prayer from Fred Guana, chaplin of the Pueblo Veterans Council and 21-year veteran of the Army.
Chris Anderson, an Army veteran and chair of the council, said the online tribute will honor those who died while acknowledging all who served.
“This Memorial Day, we will extend our gratitude to all veterans,” Anderson said. “We are observing all the wars, from the Revolution that began our country to the current conflicts we are involved in: campaigns, active duty non-combatant deaths, and accidents that have taken our veterans’ lives.
“As of September 2019, there have been 1,334,481 deaths. There also is the unsung number of non-combat stress-related deaths of 101,000. These deaths have been garnering interest since 2005. The ripple effect of the loss of our veterans is why we come together.
“We share the blood of these heroes in our camaraderie.”
Slated to give a keynote address is Army Col. Michael Cobb, commander of the Pueblo Chemical Depot.
Cobb is highly decorated, having been twice been awarded the Bronze Star. He also earned the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (five awards), the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (five awards) and four Iraqi campaign medals.
Cobb also is the recipient of the Order of the Dragon from the Chemical Corps Regimental Association.
His talk will be followed by words from Army Staff Sgt. Paul Hendrickson.
Hendrickson was part of tours during both troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, with eight years of active service in the infantry.
The traditional playing of taps will be handled by 13-year-old Colby MacCarter, of Boy Scout Troop 2020. His appearance is being sponsored by VFW Post 202 in Brentwood, California.
MacCarter is the nephew of Chris Anderson.
“Colby is first chair in a jazz band at his school,“ Anderson said. ”I had challenged him to learn taps and it turned out, his band teacher is a certified instructor to teach taps.“
That teacher, Mark Morello, is a Webelos den leader and has been a Merit Badge Counselor for Music and Bugling for more than a decade.
Guana will cap the virtual event with a closing prayer.
While veterans are the ultimate focus of Memorial Day, through the years, the holiday has evolved to include remembrance of all loved ones and friends who have died.
It also is the unofficial kickoff to the summer season.
But with safer-at-home and social distancing orders in place, state officials are encouraging Coloradans to enjoy the holiday with a backyard barbecue or a physically distanced cookout; a hike and/or bicycle excursion; time on the water; a dispersed camping trip; round or two of golf; a horseback ride and other outdoor events that respect protocol in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.