Dennis Broz noticed long ago that during Jackson’s annual Veterans Day celebrations, something was missing: flags.
Every year since, for more than a decade, the Vietnam Navy veteran has made it his personal mission to supply scores of miniature star-spangled banners to those who make their way to the Town Square on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The flags always arrive curled in a bundle, and Broz decided it wouldn’t do to hand them out in such an unwavable state. So he irons them, hundreds of them, and then to each handle he attaches a “thank you” message to veterans.
It’s time-consuming and tedious, no doubt. But, he said, “I appreciate what they do.”
His flags flapped from dozens of hands Monday morning, when about 100 veterans and their families and friends gathered downtown in sub-freezing temperatures to honor the nation’s armed forces. Many appeared in uniform or bearing some other emblem of their service.
They formed a semicircle around a podium in the grass, from which Ed Liebzeit, a Vietnam veteran, commemorated the day. He commended recent successes in combat and praised the military as neutral and nonpartisan, dedicated to defending all U.S. citizens.
“We don’t care who you voted for, we don’t care where you worship, and if you’re rich or poor, doesn’t matter,” Liebzeit said. “We have a focus, and that focus is caring for, supporting and protecting all Americans in the United States of America.”
To the longtime Jackson Hole residents, he pointed out, “You may wonder what’s behind you.”
Heads turned to look at the fenced-off site of what used to be the Town Square monument, a stone pillar adorned with plaques that listed the valley’s veterans dating back to World War I.
American Legion Post 43 is constructing a new one, in the form of an eight-paneled work of black granite engraved with the names of veterans from every major conflict of the 20th century. They initially hoped to unveil it Monday, but delays pushed back the completion date. For now, only a concrete foundation and pillars mark the spot.
Mayor Pete Muldoon, himself a veteran, also gave a prepared statement, declaring that residents of Jackson Hole and the country at large should look to veterans as the “ultimate example of leadership, patriotism and sacrifice.”
“The future of our community, our families, our children, and our great nation depends on the dedication and patriotism of all people who have served in our armed forces,” he said.
Off to one side of the square, Dee Buckstaff and Patty Robertson watched over a procession of young children from the Montessori School of the Tetons. Each year, Robertson said, they talk about Veterans Day with their students before observing the holiday.
“Not too in-depth, but at a 3- and 4-year-old understanding,” she said as her pupils twirled their tiny flags nearby. “Gotta start them young.”
The ceremony ended with the usual military formalities. Three rounds from seven rifles each rang out over the Town Square in a 21-gun salute, and a single bugler played taps in drawn-out, mournful notes. But before that, Liebzeit made a final reflection on the role of America’s soldiers.
“We have the freedom, we have our way of life, we have the privileges we enjoy today because of our veterans,” he said. “Let us never forget.”