In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. The week in which it falls every year – this week for 2017 – is recognized as National Police Week.
It is fitting, then, that this year’s Memorial Day River Walk to honor and support local law enforcement, and to remember those officers killed in the line of duty in Southwest Colorado, will be held on Saturday.
The event begins with a Main Ave. parade at 11 a.m., and is centered on a 2.5 mile walk on the Animas River Trail. There will also be a memorial service at the Community Recreation Center and a community barbecue at Rotary Park.
Like last year, the event will be punctuated – fittingly and poignantly – by the firing of the Fort Lewis College ceremonial cannon up on Rim Drive. There will be eight booming salutes to echo about the Animas Valley, one for each of the fallen local officers killed in the line of duty:
La Plata County Sheriff William J. Thompson (1906)U.S. Secret Service investigator Joseph A. Walker (1907)Colorado State Patrol Corporal Richard C. Edstrom (1959)Durango Police Department Corporal Gale E. Emerson (1974)La Plata County Sheriff Deputy Donald R. Kartchner (1972)La Plata County Sheriff Sergeant Frank McAteer (1981)Colorado State Patrol Trooper Joseph A. Ynostroza (1989)Retired Durango Police Department Sergeant and Southern Ute Indian Tribe investigator Anthony Clyde Archuleta (2013).Last year’s memorial walk took place on a weekday. The move to a Saturday this year is appropriate, as it should spur more community participation.
Appropriate, too, for a town where Memorial Day (May 29), the day on which we remember and honor the soldiers, sailors and air crews that died serving in the armed forces, seems to have lost its way. Not intentionally, nor from neglect. Memorial Day is observed in Durango, but our focus is shaded by our economic reliance on the summer tourist trade.
Memorial Day, of course, marks the start of the summer travel season. Here, Memorial Day is about the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, “no vacancy” signs lit at Main Ave. motels, tour buses winding their way to Mesa Verde and “open” signs in every store window in Silverton.
Let Saturday, then, serve as a reminder of duty and service to our community. Come out and honor our local men and women in law enforcement, and thank them for their choice to serve.