Teller County Commissioner/Combat Veteran Reflects on Memorial Day

Dan Williams

Despite the unusually cold and wintery spring this year, Memorial Day is fast approaching in Teller County once again.  All around neighbors are readying boats, digging gardens, and filling propane tanks for BBQ grills.  For many Memorial Day marks, the start of summer, the return of tourists, and an easier time in the high county.  For Veterans and many others, it is a time of personal reflection, gratitude, and deep appreciation for the true cost of freedom.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May and was originally created to honor the Civil War dead, America’s deadliest war.  The day is now set aside to honor all service members and veterans who died while in service to the United States during peace and war. This includes the 12 major wars the United States has fought, in addition to other conflicts.

As time has passed since the United States ended the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq so too has our Nations overt thankfulness to our Veterans and those who died defending our freedoms.  There are a lot less flags flying these days.  Phrases such as “thank you for your service” and “how was it over there?” are not heard as often.  While these sentiments are appreciated, Veterans do not seek recognition. Veterans do ask, however, that we all remember those who never made it back alive to their families and communities.

Veterans in Teller County led by the American Legion and the VFW, lead our parades, organize our patriotic events, care for the widows and Veterans and families in need, and show great respect in honoring our war dead on Memorial Day.  This year we would once again be honored to have you join us.

Since the birth of the United States, it is estimated that some 42 million Americans fought in one of our wars.  From 1775 to 2024 some 2.5 million men and women lost their lives in these wars defending our freedom. America’s most costly war, the civil war and the war that is the original cause for Memorial Day, saw over 620,000 dead.  Brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor in a divided nation we swore we would never see again.

Today, however, our Nation is once again divided.  We are at odds on nearly everything. Our schools, our sports, our politics, our engagements overseas, race relations, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, urban versus rural, gun rights; everything it seems is contentious these days.  Americans have lost the ability to empathize with each other and to accept our differences as our strength. We owe it to our war dead to not allow those differences to tear us apart.  The loss of our sense of Nation and a single people makes their sacrifices seem unworthy.  Freedom and liberty belong to each American and are interpreted uniquely. Please honor our dead and their sacrifice for our freedom.

This year I would ask as a multiple combat Veteran who buried far too many Soldiers in my thirty years of service, that we honor our dead by respecting the living and each other.  American society and the freedom we enjoy is unique.  We remain a melting pot of cultures, people, values, and lifestyles from fifty different states.  Yet, we are all united under one flag and one Nation.

Martin Luther King once said that “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  This Memorial Day the souls of 2.5 million war dead deserve to have their sacrifice honored by restoring the peace they fought so valiantly for. It seems that in our 247-year history it is only in crisis or in times of war that we are united.  Once peace is restored we begin our infighting once again.

We need to try harder to get along, find common ground, and lead our communities in a positive manner.  This American experiment is not guaranteed   We can and must do better -we owe it to those who laid down their lives so that we could be free.  “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves”. – Abraham Lincoln


*Dan Williams is a 30-year combat veteran currently serving as the District 1 Teller County Commissioner.  He commands American Legion Post 1980 and is a member of VFW Post 6051. He lives with his wife Suzan, also a Veteran on their ranch near Cripple Creek.

The schedule of events for this year’s Teller County Memorial Day Activities are listed below.  The public is warmly invited.

Saturday 25 May

9 am – Woodland Park Cemetery.  The placing of small American flags on all Veteran graves

11 am – Florissant Grange, Purple Heart Community dedication, at the Florissant Grange

Sunday 26 May

10  a.m. – Annual Buddy Poppy Drive, City Market

Monday, 27 May Memorial Day

7 a.m. – Flags up in Lions Park

11 a.m. – Annual Community wide Memorial Day Ceremony, Woodland Park Cemetery

5 p.m. – Flags down in Lions Park