Just a half mile from Ski Cooper, veterans, Coloradans, descendants and friends of the 10th Mountain Division will gather Monday for a Memorial Day ceremony to honor their fallen comrades of the 10th Mountain Division and the 99th Battalion who lost their lives in combat.
The World War II men of the mountain did their advanced ski training in 1940s at Ski Cooper, when it was known as Cooper Hill.
“This is the 60th annual Memorial Day ceremony honoring those who served in the 10th Mountain Division and all other veterans of America’s wars,” said Trux Dole, 10th Mountain Division Foundation president and grandson of Charles Minot Dole, who is regarded as the father of the division.
“We will gather at Tennessee Pass to especially remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving with the 10th Mountain Division.”
Open to the public, this Colorado Memorial Day tradition will remind participants of the sacrifice of our great heroes and give them the opportunity to see and touch WWII artifacts and equipment provided by the 10th Mountain Living History Group.
In addition, soldiers from the 157th Colorado Army National Guard Battalion recently aligned under the 10th Mountain Division will participate in this year’s ceremony along with soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York.
Because of limited seating, attendees are encouraged to take lawn chairs.
The Lake County High School Band will provide music, and the Cañon City Junior ROTC Color Guard will post colors in honor of those who gave so much for the freedoms enjoyed today.
The memorial is at the summit of Tennessee Pass on U.S. 24, between Leadville and Minturn. Gathering and coffee are at 9:30 a.m. Ceremony start time is 11 a.m. Master of ceremonies is Dole.
Keynote speaker this year is retired Col. Matthew J. Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald has 30 years of commissioned service with more than half being served in the Mountain Infantry. He currently serves as the president of the New England Chapter, 10th Mountain Division Association. He was the first non-World War II president of the New England Chapter, 10th Mountain Association, from 2008 to 2009.
He runs Capital Custom Sandblast Co., a monument/memorial sales, setting/installation, lettering, cleaning and repair business in the summer. He works at Jay Peak Ski Resort in the winter.
The WWII 10th Mountain Division was created in Colorado in 1943 and trained at Camp Hale, high in the Rockies, near Leadville. It was the only unit in the history of the U.S. Army to be organized specifically for mountain and winter warfare. The 10th played a major role in the battles that brought about the surrender of the German army in Italy in 1945.
After the war, the division was deactivated, and many of the veterans went on to create ski resorts across America, including, among others, Vail, Aspen and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, Whiteface Mountain in New York State, Ski Santa Fe and Sandia Peak Ski areas in New Mexico and numerous others. Veterans of the 10th were instrumental in making skiing a major American winter sport.
Reactivated in 1985 and based in Fort Drum, the 10th Mountain Division has carried the moniker of “the most deployed division in our Army” and is furthering the division’s legacy. Since 9/11, the Division Headquarters has deployed 12 times, equaling almost 14 years, and more than 40 brigade-size deployments have occurred.
The 10th Mountain Division Foundation was established in 1958 by WWII veterans of the 10th Mountain Division to memorialize the history and achievements of the 10th Mountain Division and to perpetuate its legacy for future generations.
The foundation administers several programs to help wounded warriors and to support higher education. Learn more about the foundation at tenthmountainfoundation.org.