Military’s lesser-known tales honored at Memorial Day commemoration in Colorado Springs | Colorado Springs News
An old man stood at the corner of the path, held upright by his cane and his wife and daughter on either side of him, just another face in the sea of people marching through Evergreen Cemetery.
On this Memorial Day and all of the others before, Donald Anderson, 92, was thinking about his buddies who never came home. Those buddies from high school, who along with him shipped out for World War II.
Anderson went to sea with the Merchant Marine. “Which most people don’t really hear about,” he said. “The Merchant Marine were, well, they were the unknown heroes that got stuff to where it had to go.”
Unknown heroes are all part of the annual commemoration at Evergreen Cemetery. The grounds might best be known as the resting place of some of Colorado Springs’ most important early people, including founding father Gen. William Jackson Palmer. But for 17 years now, Memorial Day has been the cemetery’s day of thanks for the thousands of soldiers interred here, many with headstones and many without, representing wars throughout America’s existence.
“Especially being a military town, I still don’t think people realize the history — this is going to sound like a pun — that is buried here,” said Dianne Hartshorn, who directs Evergreen Heritage and started the commemoration here after 9/11.
The event features men dressed like Buffalo Soldiers, honoring the African Americans who helped win the Spanish-American War and battles before and after. One was George Mason, whose tomb is the ending point of the annual march.
Andrew Bell, 85, has led the tradition, a veteran paying respects to black soldiers before him.
“A lot of books you’ll find in the library are about Patton and Teddy Roosevelt,” he said. “You don’t find anything in there about the Buffalo Soldiers, very few things.”
And you don’t find as much about servicewomen, either. Scarlet Addams was new to the commemoration this year, posted between armed re-enactors of the Civil War and Vietnam War. She was in the uniform of World War II nurses, telling the story of Jane Parrish, who left Colorado Springs shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor to later care for troops in France. Her picture was among others of women Addams showed.
“We got a lot of men here, but gotta give some love to the ladies, too,” she said. “They’re just as important as the men. The death tolls would’ve been a lot higher without them.”
Across the yard was Michael Bixby, wearing the kind of gear men wore when they stormed Omaha Beach. His uncle was with those forces, the next in the family’s long line of military service. Bixby, though, never could enlist — the medical exam came back negative each of his five or six attempts.
“This kind of helps me,” he said Monday, beside a tent built like an old command post. “If I can just try to help immortalize what previous generations have done, then that’s what I can do.”
He joined everyone else in the procession. They were veterans, but mostly not — friends and families with young children. Watching them go, tears welled up in Anderson’s eyes.
“This is wonderful,” he said. “You know, most of those people probably don’t have loved ones they lost. They were just acknowledging the freedoms and joy they have now because of people who’ve been there.”