A Different Kind of Memorial Day Celebration In the Teller High Country

Dan Williams, Teller County Commissioner


Helicopters flew undaunted through dust and heavy smoke to their targets. Overhead fixed wing aircraft made their target runs with precision. Men and women with 60-pound packs approached their objectives after climbing the steep and mountainous terrain.  Everyone was focused on the mission.


This could be a description of any battlefield from Vietnam to Afghanistan.  This time, however, the battlefield was right here in Teller County. This is a description of what I experienced while working as a member of a great local, state, and federal team to fight Teller County’s recent High Park fire.


A large percentage of the first responders in our fight had military experience and I know had similar thoughts as they were battling the flames.   What I observed and participated in during daily operations were true professionals fighting for our homes and families, fighting to preserve a way of life, and fighting to stay alive. It was good to walk with heroes again.


The parallels between the High Park wildland fire experience and combat operations were plain to see. This time, rather than bullets causing harm, danger came from blowing flames, falling timber and the steep terrain. The courage and the disciplined professionalism I witnessed was truly inspirational and very familiar to me and is an experience that will stay with me forever.  Watching our combined communities come together to solve a very complex problem in the hour of need is exactly what was needed to succeed.  Our communities, agencies and residents make me exceedingly proud.


So here we sit as we approach Memorial Day. A little rattled and a little wiser with regards to the destructive power of fire and better prepared and trained to deal with the next one as we have a long dry summer in front of us. It’s a different kind of Memorial Day.  This event makes the purpose and focus of Memorial Day just a little clearer for all of us.


Perhaps, after this experience of shared sacrifice and renewed sense of service to others, our community can better understand the emotion and sacrifice that our servicemen and women feel on Memorial Day.  For Veterans and families of those who have experienced the loss of a Veteran, Memorial Day is a somber and reflective day on which we remember all those who have died in the service of our country in our Nation’s wars. We remember those forever young who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and we are grateful to have made it home. In combat and in the High Park Fire, I watched men and women move into harm’s way and danger for a cause greater than themselves..  For those who rush into danger for a greater good, I am reminded that there is no greater sacrifice than to offer one’s life in defense of another.


So, this Memorial Day take the time to remember our fallen. Teller County experienced fear, anxiety, bravery, success, and a host of other feelings during our recent fire. I can tell you firsthand that those feelings are not unlike those experienced in combat. Our servicemen and women leave our country, deploy to a foreign country and fight for our freedom and liberty.  Of all the emotions felt in combat one of the most powerful feelings we have is the hope that we will not be forgotten.

This Memorial Day take the time to feel grateful for those who sacrificed everything for us in all our Nation’s wars so that we can live free.


Editor’s Note: Dan Williams is the District 1 Teller County Commissioner and is the current chairman of the board. In addition, he is a retired US Army Colonel, a multiple combat veteran, to include Afghanistan and Iraq, the Post 1980 American Legion Commander, and a Post 6051 VFW Life Member.  He lives with his wife Suzan, a retired US Army Nurse and Colonel on their ranch near Cripple Creek. He also previously served as a head Teller County planner.  


*As far as special memorial-related events, there will be grave flag event to place flags on headstones on Saturday May 28 at 10 a.m. in the Woodland Park Cemetery and on Memorial Day, May 30 at 11 a.m. in the Woodland Park Cemetery.  The public is warmly invited. See the Mountain Almanac for more details.

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