Colorado Springs veterans honor their comrades on Memorial Day

May 27, 2013 Updated: May 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm
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photo - Members of the 10th Regiment Buffalo Soldiers, left to right, Andrew Bell, Roderick McCorvey and George Payton, lead a procession through Evergreen Cemetary Monday, May 27, 2013 during  a Memorial Day observance honoring a Buffalo Soldier buried there. A balloon release was also held Monday at the cemetary honoring those who have died. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Members of the 10th Regiment Buffalo Soldiers, left to right, Andrew Bell, Roderick McCorvey and George Payton, lead a procession through Evergreen Cemetary Monday, May 27, 2013 during a Memorial Day observance honoring a Buffalo Soldier buried there. A balloon release was also held Monday at the cemetary honoring those who have died. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

For some veterans, there is no wondering where certain friends are or how they spent their Memorial Day weekend.

Those remembered are buried on the world's beaches, in jungles and oceans.

Richard Hughes, 65, lost two high school buddies in the Vietnam War. Hughes is a retired master chief who spent 25 years in the Navy.

On Monday he was one of about 100 who attended the 11 a.m. Memorial Day ceremony at the Retired Enlisted Association in Colorado Springs. A Texas native, Hughes served on the USS Hepburn. He has made a pencil etching of his friends' names off the Vietnam memorial wall that stands in Fair Park in Dallas.

"Those two guys are still instilled in my brain," Hughes said, "as are the others who did not come home."

More than 58,000 U.S. service men and women died in Vietnam, according to the Navy Department Library's website.

Monday's ceremony was designed to honor them and the more than 1 million others who have died in battles starting with the Revolutionary War. The event was hosted by the Pikes Peak Veterans Council. Col. Chris Crawford, Commander, 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, was the featured speaker.

Gus Zielke, 55, spent his Memorial Day morning helping place wreaths during the ceremony as a member of the American Legion (Motorcycle) Riders. Zielke was a U.S. Navy jet mechanic from 1975-1976. Monday marked his fifth year participating in the ceremony.

"I feel like these people deserve our respect," he said. "Everybody should be here."

Men and women who served, those who are serving, and their families crowded the hall inside the Retired Enlisted Association building to share stories, memories, and breakfast that started at 10 a.m. Most hugged, a few cried, some said, "I'm sorry."

Chris Farley, 74, spent 24 years serving his country in submarines from 1955 through 1978. He lost friends. He also knows World War II vets who lost friends. Standing in a black vest covered with the emblems of the six boats on which he served, Farley said Memorial Day is not about another day off from work, but rather honoring troops who died.

"Some people just don't care," he said. "They won't even salute the flag."

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Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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