‘We do it because we have to’ American Legion dedicates Veterans Memorial Park

All of the veterans who attended the dedication ceremony for Grand Lake's Veterans Memorial Park pose in front of the memorial and flag pole Sept. 17.
Kyle McCabe/Sky-Hi News

On Saturday morning, Sept. 17, veterans and civilians gathered in the park at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Portal Road in Grand Lake for a ceremony dedicating the area as Veterans Memorial Park.

The event kicked off with a prayer from Bryan Hochhalter, a pastor at the Community Church of the Rockies. Anthony Duddlson, the commander for the Alex Klein American Legion Post 88 in Grand County, followed Hochhalter by reciting the Preamble to the American Legion Constitution, which gives reasons for the legion’s existence, like to perpetuate Americanism.

“Americanism is the gist of the American ideals of freedom, justice, individual rights and unlimited opportunities,” Duddlson said. “It is the very opposite of hatred, bigotry and intolerance.”

Americanism, the defense of the Constitution and promotion of peace were among the American Legion values speakers touched on throughout the event. Officers from the Grand County American Legion post, current and former state-level American Legion officers and Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron spoke at the ceremony. 

Two scheduled speakers, including county commissioner Merrit Linke, could not make the event. The other absentee, Cornell Penn from the Colorado American Legion, missed the ceremony because he had hit a bear with his car. Jim McColmb, a Post 88 member who acted as the master of ceremonies, said Penn was unharmed from the incident.

In between speakers, McColmb mentioned the effort it took to bring a veterans memorial to Grand Lake. He said the process started over two years ago, with the American Legion post designing the monument and getting approval from the town being just the first step.

“This took a lot of time,” McColmb said. “Once we got approval from the town, we went into the process of ordering the monument. That took quite a while, just because of supply chain and COVID, quite frankly.”

A group of 20 veterans and civilians helped erect the flagpole when it arrived. The monument took a while longer, coming in after the Fourth of July, which was when McColmb said the legion wanted to dedicate the park. After missing that deadline, having the ceremony during Constitution Week felt like a happy coincidence.

Kudron mentioned a few “examples of exemplary dedication by veterans” in Grand Lake, like Dorothy Young, a World War II veteran who worked as a school nurse in the town.

With as strong a military history and community as Grand Lake has, McColmb said he “couldn’t even begin to guess” why there was no veteran memorial in the town until now.

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