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South Valley Journal

Riverton celebrates community veterans with Veterans Day program

Dec 10, 2019 03:52PM ● By Kaleigh Stock

Annalynn Stewart, Isaac Underwood and Luke Perry proudly accept their awards for the Riverton Veterans Day Essay Writing Contest. (Kaleigh Stock/City Journals)

By Kaleigh Stock | [email protected]

More than 100 people attended Riverton City’s Veterans Day Program at Sandra N. Lloyd Community Center to honor local and national veterans Nov. 11. 

The house was nearly full by the time everyone had settled in to watch the initial posting of the United States and Utah state flags by the color guard. The American Legion, a volunteer veteran organization that performs flag ceremonies for community events and funerals and engages in community service for other veterans and their family members, opened and closed the program. 

When the flags were posted and a moment of unity recognized, Americans who stand on different sides of the aisle in what has been called one of the most politically divisive times in U.S. history, all stood in respect of the soldiers who fought to defend the United States and to pledge allegiance to the American flag. 

Mayor Trent Staggs then made opening remarks. Staggs early on gave a nod to former President Ronald Reagan and his iconic Oct. 27, 1964, Republican National Convention speech when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Staggs spoke kindly of Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Mike Lee, both of whom he said he has worked with personally, by quoting their support for men and women who have served in the military.

Following the opening segment of the Riverton Veterans Day Program, the Riverton Art’s Council announced the winners of the Riverton Veterans Day Essay Contest. Contestants were required to be between the ages of 8 and 18 and write about the story of a military veteran who made an impact on the world, the local community or the child’s personal life. All three winners had proudly written about their grandfathers. Annalynn Stewart was announced as the third-place winner and received a $25 award. In second place was Isaac Underwood, who received a $50 award. Last, Luke Perry received a $100 award for his first-place winning essay. 

After a last round of applause for the essay contest winners, Ben Dayley, a technical sergeant for the Air Force Reserve, and Ray Shepherd, who served in Vietnam, spoke shortly about their experiences in the United States military. Dayley quoted an unknown author when he said, “A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.” He commented that he was proud to serve the U.S. military because he and all of his military companions, “have had complete strangers thank us for our service.” 

Van Pilkington, singer for the Riverton Jazz Band, then took the stage to say he thinks of his father who served in South Korea whenever he thinks of military men and women, and so he was very “pleased to perform” that evening.

The jazz band put on a show, starting with Glenn Miller’s “American Patrol” and then switching gears to “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. Next, Pilkington crooned classics, “You Make Me Feel So Young” and “Fly Me to the Moon” with impressive Sinatra-like vocals. When the band played Glenn Miller’s popular “In the Mood,” children and teens couldn’t help but tap their toes and dance to the music. The band closed with “The Armed Forces Medley” and the “National Anthem.”

Terry Andersen and Kelly Gorton played echo taps to end the musical portion of the Riverton Veterans Day Program. The program closed with the retrieval of the flags by the American Legion.