The city of Cortez officially dedicated the park at 830 E. Main St. as Veterans Park on Friday, which also marked the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.
More than 100 people attended the ceremony to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country.
Veterans donned ball caps and military envelope hats with their branch, the war they served in and years of service sewn into the side.
For Air Force veteran Rick Marsh, the park dedication was both a surprise and a great honor.
“You don’t go into the military thinking about anything more than what you’re doing,” Marsh said.
And on the anniversary of the single deadliest instance of a terrorist attack in world history, the ceremony recognized the service of first responders, firefighters and policemen on this day in New York City 19 years ago.
September 11, 2001, was one of the most consequential global events in modern times, and it “changed the energy in the United States,” Marsh said. But the story of that day is “not taught in schools, just brushed over,” Marsh said.
He attended the dedication ceremony with Connie Mauro, the daughter and sister of veterans. She lived in New York City when the World Trade Center collapsed.
“It still rings a careful emotion,” Mauro said, “one that is missing today: patriotism, the dedication to a country that stands for freedom and liberty.”
After witnessing the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and watching the personal sacrifice of her family members, Mauro said the “dissenters” and protesters of today have forgotten the freedoms and privileges they have because of the people who choose to serve to protect the country. And that freedom can be taken away in a second.
Her father and brother did “extra-long stints” in the military; her brother in a motor torpedo boat in Vietnam, one of the “scariest stints,” she said.
“Today, we are honoring veterans, and not with prejudice to the ethnicity of those who served,” Marsh said.
Mayor Mike Lavey, a Navy veteran, welcomed the crowd and gave opening remarks before local members of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars presented the colors.
Several of them – including Scott Magnus, American Legion Post 75; Doug Biehler, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 44; and John Davis, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5231 – also spoke at the dedication ceremony.
“It means quite a bit to be recognized,” said Vietnam veteran Bob Sanders. “We were not recognized when we came home; we were spit on.”
But dedicating a park in the town to honor veterans is a “healing moment,” Sanders said.
He served from 1966 to 1996, starting as an aircraft and flight mechanic and eventually becoming a chief of maintenance.
“I never thought I’d go back to war,” Sanders said, but his unit went back to serve in Desert Storm as the first refuelers in the area of occupation, including the United Arab Emirates.
Young people in America today have lived most, if not all, of their lives with their country in a global armed conflict. And the memory of the 2001 attacks continues to influence national and international policy.
But Sanders said he hopes Sept. 11 and the dedication of Veterans Park will remind young people that patriotism in America means “serving something other than yourself.”
“When a veteran raises his hand, he is signing a blank check to his country,” Sanders said.
Originally, the park was meant to be officially dedicated on the Fourth of July or on Veterans Day, but concerns about COVID-19 prevented that from happening, and the sign wasn’t ready, Lavey said.
But Patriot Day was the “appropriate day, it is very significant,” Lavey said.
He remembers watching the towers fall on television.
“It was heartbreaking to see,” Lavey said, but it is “interesting how it brought people together.”
Whether it is the bombing at Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “in times of strife we can come together.”
For Lavey, it is important to honor anyone who “helps the country and our community,” such as first responders and law enforcement.
In a small community like Cortez, this also means “neighbors helping neighbors,” and “bystanders that help people in need,” he said.
Lavey encouraged young people to “think of themselves as part of the whole.”
“Take responsibility, see what you can do for your community, lend a helping hand,” Lavey said. The best way to do that is to join local organizations and engage in local politics, the mayor said.
City Councilor Orly Lucero gave closing remarks before the Daughters of the American Revolution, led by Tammy Powers, laid a wreath on the Jeep painted with the American flag that was propped behind the speakers.
A moment of silence was held to honor those who lost their lives serving their country and veterans who have died.