Celebrating freedom, honor at Draper Veterans DayDec 01, 2023 09:20AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
Les Langford played Taps to conclude Draper’s Veterans Day ceremony with the city’s Field of Flags in the background. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)
At 11 o’clock on 11/11 (November 11) Draper City held its annual Veterans Day celebration at Draper Park. A joint Color Guard made up of members of the city’s Police and Fire departments started the reverent ceremony.
“We’re here to celebrate the most important folks in our country,” said Mayor Troy Walker, whose two sons currently serve in the military.
November 11 is known as Armistice Day in other countries, commemorating the end of World War I in 1918. (Armistice means “to stand still” in Latin). Because of wars that followed and a desire to recognize the military service of Americans in times of war and peace, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Veterans Day in 1954.
Draper resident and Vietnam veteran Robert Longacre explained why he felt it was important to be at the ceremony. “I love this country. We’re patriots, those of us gathered here. It’s nice to be around other service people, people who’ve moderately sacrificed. The people who sacrificed aren’t here, but they’re in our hearts.”
Walker introduced keynote speaker Chief Warrant Officer Shane Schmutz of the Utah National Guard. Schmutz’s two brothers are also in the military and their father is a Vietnam veteran. Schmutz grew up in West Jordan and was nominated to the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) upon high school graduation. He graduated from West Point as a Second Lieutenant and went on to the Army’s flight school, graduating in 2002. In early 2003, he flew during America’s invasion of Iraq. He served two tours in Iraq and a third tour in Kuwait. Schmutz was awarded the Bronze Star.
After seven years in the military, Schmutz left to work in the private sector for 14 years. During that time, he founded a nonprofit called Veterans Passport to Hope, raising approximately $1.3 million to help veterans of the various branches of service. He returned to service with the Utah National Guard one year ago and is once again a Black Hawk pilot.
Schmutz spoke about his time spent working in both the military and corporate America. “Being able to put this uniform on again…it’s not about raising the stock price (of a company), but doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. There’s nothing I’m more proud of than my service to my country,” he said.
According to Schmutz, only one percent of the United States population has served in the military, and less than 10% of that one percent have actually seen combat. “It’s a huge deal to join the military. Every single veteran signed a check that was written up to and including their life. When you join, you never know…”. He said he’s willing to go to war again though he hopes he doesn’t have to.
He mentioned difficult statistics about military life, including an average of 22 veteran suicides each day in America along with high divorce rates and PTSD, but he primarily spoke of the honor it is to serve and he thanked the families of service members as well. “The families serve just as much as the veterans do,” he said.
Schmutz specifically addressed young people. “Our country needs great people to keep up the freedom we’re afforded. It’s an honorable way to spend your life.”
The ceremony included uplifting music from the One Voice Children’s Choir directed by Masa Fukuda, the Star Spangled Banner sung by Miss Draper Attendant Belynn Borg, and Taps played by Les Langford of the Timpanogos Honor Guard. The city’s Field of Flags served as a backdrop for the ceremony.
“America is peaceful. All the freedoms we enjoy…they are because we have a strong and dedicated force. Hug a Veteran,” Walker said. λ