Cody Honors Fallen Veterans on Memorial Day 2023
Written by Andrew-Rossi on May 29, 2023
The City of Cody takes great pride in its patriotism and the community’s support of its many veterans. While that patriotism is most overly displayed during the many Independence Day festivities, it is displayed more solemnly but no less genuinely on Memorial Day.
Every year, two ceremonies are held on opposite ends of Cody – Riverside Cemetery in the morning and Veterans Memorial Park in the afternoon, both honoring the fallen soldiers of the United States.
Regular attendees of the morning’s formal ceremony in Riverside Cemetery – where nearly a thousand Cody veterans are interred – know the traditions well – a flower laying and guest speakers, followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps. But in 2023, those traditions were nowhere to be found.
Instead, a crowd of two dozen gathered in the central plaza. A veteran (who wished to remain anonymous) said there would be no formal ceremony that morning.
The veteran described the ceremony’s cancellation as “a matter of uniforms.” A disagreement between the commanders of the Cody Honor Guard, V.F.W. Post 2673, and the State V.F.W. None of the respective commanders were at Riverside that morning.
In a brief statement to K.O.D.I., V.F.W. Department of Wyoming Commander Danielle Smith said V.F.W. Post 2673 is currently suspended and not allowed to partake in any V.F.W. activities.
Nevertheless, “recognition still needs to occur,” said retired U.S. Air Force Major Dan Roblyer. Roblyer was the only speaker at the event, giving a short speech about the importance of Memorial Day and honoring the nation’s fallen servicemen and women.
“By their service – on land, sea, and air – they ensure the nation’s flag flies over the land of the free,” Roblyer said. “Your comrades render tribute to consecrate your heroic deaths with sincere reverence.”
As he concluded, a woman requested the Pledge of Allegiance before dispersing. Roblyer encouraged everyone to walk through Riverside Cemetery to enjoy the glorious spring day and find their moment to honor the fallen.
By contrast, over a hundred people sat on lawn chairs and bleachers at Veterans Memorial Park for the afternoon Memorial Day ceremony. Cody Mayor Matt Hall served as Master of Ceremonies.
The ceremony began with the Posting of the Colors by Greybull American Legion. They carried the flags of the United States and Wyoming through the World War II Memorial. With the afternoon wind, both flags flew so strongly that multiple veterans helped hold them in place to ensure they did not fall.
After the singing of the National Anthem by Wendy Corr, Deacon and retired United States Marine Corps Captain Rock Moser gave the invocation. He listed all the fields of battle where Wyoming soldiers fought and where many gave their lives for their country.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” Moser said, quoting John 15:13 of the New Testament.
Karen Ballinger is the Chairperson of the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation. In her speech, she said it’s time for the nation’s youth to “step up” and do their part to honor the fallen. Before anyone departed that afternoon, she asked them to visit each memorial for reflection and do a small act of service by “picking five weeds.”
The keynote speaker was retired U.S.M.C. Master Sergeant Vince Vanata. The common denominator between those who came home alive and those who gave their lives abroad is that they “answered the call and honored the duty,” Vanata said. “An adult decision made by young lives.”
Vanata said he doesn’t believe in coincidences, noting that the first serviceman to die in the Iraq War – Marine 1st Lt. Therrel Shane Childers – was a Powell native. Also, one of the last service members to die in the Afghanistan War was a Wyomingite – Marine Lance Cpl Rylee McCollum of Bondurant.
Both ceremonies were held in a Wyoming sensibility – modest and quick, but with all the sincerity and reverence the nation’s fallen soldiers earned and eternally deserve. Mayor Hall quoted the words of then-congressman and future president James Garfield during the first Memorial Day – then Decoration Day – in 1868.
“I love to believe that no heroic sacrifice is ever lost; that the characters of men are molded and inspired by what their fathers have done . . . Thousands of soldiers are to-day turning aside in the march of life to visit the silent encampments of dead comrades who once fought by their side. From many thousand homes, whose light was put out when a soldier fell, there go forth to-day to join these solemn processions, loving kindred and friends, from whose hearts the shadow of grief will never be lifted till the light of the eternal world dawns upon them.”
After Corr and “American the Beautiful” and a benediction by Deacon Moser, the colors were retired and marched from the memorial as Brooklyn French played Taps. The crowd dispersed throughout Veterans Memorial Park, some stopping to pick the weeds as a small but poignant token of respect on Memorial Day.