World War I tribute highlights Woodland Park Memorial Day Celebration

Special holiday hits home for area veterans

On the morning of Memorial Day, American flags are posted at Lions Park which is at the crossroads of Hwy 24 & 67.

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

The conflict was once dubbed as the war to end all wars, or “The Great War.”

But as most historians and veterans know all too well, World War I certainly didn’t create this result with more than one million soldiers perishing in this brutal conflict that almost served as a symbolic reality of modern warfare.  

As part of the 100th-year anniversary of America’s involvement in World War I, the annual Memorial Day ceremony, hosted by the local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, paid special tribute to this struggle during an emotional ceremony at the Woodland Park Cemetery on Monday. Few dry eyes were left among a large group of residents and former veterans and their families who attended the annual ceremony.

This ceremony begins the Saturday before Memorial Day with the placing of American flags on the graves of veterans at the cemeteries in Woodland Park, Divide and Westcreek.

Surprisingly, Teller County has a strong links to the Great War, with at least seven known World War I veterans buried in the Woodland Park Cemetery.

Monday’s ceremony was held outside the gravestone of Ira Woods, who served in a special artillery unit under trying circumstances. His gravestone area was adorned with a historic military helmet, gun and boots, symbolizing the sacrifice  Woods and others made for their country and in the fight for peace. Nearby, the grave of Artie Speilman, another World War I veteran, dotted the older section of the cemetery.

Both veterans survived the Great War and died around the same year.  

“This is a special day for me,” said Andy Tyler, the commander of the 6051 VFW Post, who headed the ceremony presentation. Besides tributes to World War I, Tyler offered historic anecdotes from the Civil War and offered patriotic comments made by President Abraham Lincoln, and made comments about the modern fight against terrorism.  

For Tyler, Memorial Day hits home big-time as it pays tribute to one of his close friends, who died while serving his country in Iraq. Tyler himself did four tours in Iraq as a special forces member of the U.S. Army.

Tyler also had a great uncle who was shot down and killed during World War I. He displays a special knowledge of this war and many other conflicts involving VFW members.

Besides Tyler, Woodland Park City Manager David Buttery, a 20-year-veteran of the U.S. Army, made comments at the ceremony, expressing appreciation for veterans across the nation. A special gun salute was done by members of the local 1980 American Legion Post.

The annual Memorial Day ceremony in the Woodland Park Cemetery has become a popular event that honors fallen soldiers and military veterans. Each year, the ceremony takes on a special theme.

Last year, a special tribute was made for veterans of the Vietnam War.  

The ceremony in Woodland Park was just one of a slew of Memorial Day tributes held in the local region. Other than the ceremony at the Woodland Park Cemetery, other Memorial Day events occurred in the Florissant, Lake George and 4-Mile cemeteries, and involved a variety of VFW and American Legion posts. In addition, the VFW Post 11411 hosted a coffee shop on top of Wilkerson Pass to greet visitors and travelers throughout the Memorial weekend.  

Memorial Day hits home in Teller County with our extraordinary large population, per capita, of former veterans and current members of the armed forces.  

According to Tyler, the Woodland Park Cemetery is a fitting reminder of the sacrifices made by veterans, with the graves of soldiers from a variety of conflicts. For example, at one section of the cemetery, graves are located for both a Union and Confederate soldier.

During the Memorial Day weekend, The 6051 VFW post decorates more than 200 graves with flags. Similar gestures are done by other VFW posts and veteran-oriented organizations throughout the high country.  Photos provided by Larry Ingram