Tears were shed Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial at Green Valley Park, but it was mostly a day of remembering and paying tribute for the 500 plus people who came to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Despite the uncertain weather, attendance at all four of the Memorial Day services held in Payson over the weekend jumped significantly from last year. About 75 to 100 people attended Saturday memorials at the Pioneer Cemetery where veterans from every war since the Civil War are buried and services at the Mountain Meadows cemetery in Round Valley. A similar sized group showed up for the flag raising ceremony at the casino on Monday morning.
But the service at Green Valley Park drew the largest crowd, including perhaps 100 motorcycle riders from two motorcycle clubs for Vietnam Veterans. Luanne Carpino served as master of ceremonies and officials who spoke included Jan Chilton representing the Tonto Apache Tribe, Police Chief Don Engler, Fire Chief Martin deMasi, and Mayor Bob Edwards.
The hymns of each military branch of service played as the Payson Military Honor Guard presented the colors of each service, while veterans from each branch stood for a grateful round of applause.
Mayor Edwards said the day offers an opportunity to mark the memory of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country -- and he asked grateful citizens to re-dedicate themselves to their country and its unifying mission.
The day is a reminder that the problems of everyday life pale in comparison to the challenges these veterans faced in defending this country, he said.
"It was the mark of a good ceremony that everyone wanted to stay and grab a piece of what was there -- a good, positive note to a great day," said Bill Sahno, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who helped organize the events. "A lot of tears were seen in that crowd."