By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer
As a nation, 9-11 is now etched into our consciousness forever for those who remember the day as most of us do. Not unlike the assasination of President Kennedy in Dallas, this date always makes one remember where they were at that fateful and dark time in our country’s history.
The Dubois National Museum of Military Vehicles, led by the famed Don Starks, philanthropist and patriot, put on a presentation of a magnitude not seen before in Fremont County. This presentation, surrounded by the museum’s vast collection of military memories, offered a perspective of the 911 tragedy from the hearts of the families who have lost loved ones in that and other acts of violence and war against our fighting men and women.
The opening comments and invocation was provided by Wyoming’s own Governor Mark Gordon. He along with First Lady Jennie were there to provide support from the heart of our state for this prestigious and solemn occasion. As the colors were posted by the Rock Springs Marine Corps League, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps Detachment #1406, the several hundred people in attendance were quiet and reflective as they bowed their heads.
The National Anthem, sung by the Riverton Jazz Choir and performed via a prerecorded video, was an exceptional rendition, featuring all the members of the choir dressed in black and performed against a grassy field. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by two members of the Lander Valley High School Military Science Program. Dixie Roberson and Masyn Haase, in military uniform completed their mission without falter.
Local Musicians and vocalists, Scott and Lori Morrow, sang a moving acapella tribute with their rendition of “America The Beautiful,” to round out the opening ceremony.
The Guest speaker and Gold Star Father, Mr. George Lutz told the story of his own journey of pain and healing after losing his son to a sniper’s bullet in Iraq. He explained the process that led him to being a part of the Honor and Remember organization and the meaning of the flag and its symbolism.
On December 29, 2005, George Anthony Lutz II (Tony) was killed by a sniper’s bullet while he was on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. His family and friends endured the shock, emotional agony and overwhelming loss that accompanied the news of Tony’s death, just like the many families who have suffered the same tragedy.
In the months that followed Tony’s funeral, his father, George, visited other families who had lost loved ones in the Iraq war. He began to sense that he had joined the ranks of a unique fellowship. These families were only the latest additions to a group that originated with the American Revolution, when the first soldiers to shed their blood for our freedom gave their lives.
George found another commonality among the families of fallen soldiers. After their grief had transitioned to numbness and finally to acceptance, many families wanted to know two things: their sacrifice was not in vain and the nation would never forget. These concerns led George on a quest to discover if there was a universally recognized symbol that specifically acknowledges the American service men and women who never made it home. To his surprise, he found nothing. Thus the Honor and Remember Flag was conceived.
Ultimately, the mission to perpetually recognize the sacrifice of America’s military fallen service members and their families. This organization pays tribute to all military lives lost, not only while serving on active duty but also as a result of serving. Military deaths in all wars or conflicts and all branches of service from our nation’s inception are recognized along with those who gave all on that tragic day in 2001 when terror struck at our hearts in the attack on our freedom at the Twin Towers and at the Pentigon.
The following men were honored by the retelling of their stories by the members of their families. As difficult as it was to hear, it was obviously more difficult to tell for those family members who stood in front of the vast crowd of strangers who listened intently to the stories about; Air Force Combat Controller John Chapman, Marine Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, Marine Lance Corporal Jerrod Warden and Marine Corporal Matthew Henderson.
At the conclusion of the stories, the Honor and Remember flags were presented to each family after being unfurled from the triangle shape that is customary for presentation flags given to the family when a service member is laid to rest. Following the presentation, Mr. John Adams, Nebraska, Honor and Remember chapter Secretary gave some closing remarks about the potential for a chapter to form at the museum in Dubois.
The tears seemed to flow freely with the closing song “You lift me up” sung by the Ukrainian Children’s Choir via pre-recorded video.
“To every family who has ever lost a loved one in service to our country, we offer a collective expression of appreciation with one unified message: “Thank You!” We will always honor their selfless sacrifice and remember them individually by name.”