LOCAL NEWS

‘I love my country’: Veterans, Gov. Cox focus on service, honoring military on Memorial Day

May 27, 2024, 3:51 PM

Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during the Memorial Day commemoration at the Utah Capitol Building in Sa...

Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during the Memorial Day commemoration at the Utah Capitol Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 27, 2024. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

(Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Memorial Day isn’t just about picnics, relaxation and sun for John Jackman.

Significantly, it brings to mind military comrades who have died while serving the United States, the focus of the day, and generates a tinge of sorrow. “I’m still torn up that I’m here and they’re there,” he said.

It also reinforces his sentiments toward the United States and the importance of serving the country.

“The most important thing I can tell you is I love my country,” said the U.S. Air Force and Vietnam War veteran. “I love my country.”

Ceremony at the Utah Capitol

Jackman and maybe 200 others gathered Monday at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake for a ceremony to mark Memorial Day, with Gov. Spencer Cox — the main speaker — offering a message similar to Jackman’s focused on the importance of service.

Cox lauded the service of those who have died fighting for the nation, noting the story of four Borgstrom brothers from Thatcher in Box Elder County. Four of five military-age brothers in the family died within six months of each other in 1944 while serving in the war, and Cox took part in a Memorial Day ceremony earlier Monday in Tremonton, near Thatcher, focusing on them.

“They gave their lives for America, this country, for all of us as Americans,” Cox said in the Salt Lake City address. A memorial at a cemetery honoring the Borgstrom brothers was dedicated as part of the Tremonton event.

Community members salute as the National Anthem is played during the Memorial Day commemoration at the Utah Capitol Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 27, 2024. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

Cox also sounded a message about sacrifice and the importance of serving the nation without regard to political ideology.

“When we serve, something magical happens … we stop caring about the political persuasions of our neighbors and we just start caring about our neighbors,” he said. “I think service is what makes America different and great.”

Service and patriotism

Service and patriotism, moreover, don’t just have to be about the military, he said.

“Patriotism is about building our communities and making them better and, if called upon, being willing to give our life for this idea,” Cox said. “I hope that every one of us is willing to die for the idea of America. But if not called upon to give our lives, it’s my prayer that we will wear out our lives giving back to this place that has given us so much.”

U.S. Rep. Celeste Maloy, R-Utah, also addressed the crowd at Monday’s event, held on the south steps of the Utah Capitol. She noted that similar sorts of ceremonies are occurring around the country. “We’re still united as a country when it comes to the things that truly matter and this is one of the things that truly matters,” she said.

Monday’s crowd included military veterans wearing hats noting their branch of service and the wars they fought in, parents with children and others.

For Jackman, the day reminds him of fellow service members who died while serving in the Vietnam War. “They were good guys, every one of them,” he said.

In particular, he recalled a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which features the names of service members who died in the war. “An hour of that and I went to pieces,” Jackman said.

Tom Bacca, of Taylorsville, a U.S. Navy and Korean War veteran, offered similar sentiments. Memorial Day, he said, is about “honoring the fallen, the heroes.”

For Bob Souter of Park City, also a U.S. Navy and Korean War veteran, his military service is central to his identity. “I just appreciate every day I’m alive that I got to serve my country,” he said.

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‘I love my country’: Veterans, Gov. Cox focus on service, honoring military on Memorial Day