Remembering the first Memorial Day and 3 local veterans' military service - East Idaho News

Remembering the first Memorial Day and 3 local veterans’ military service

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Arlington National Cemetery decked out with American flags. reporter Rett Nelson pays tribute to a special World War II veteran in the video player above. | Stock image

IDAHO FALLS – Monday is Memorial Day, an annual day to pay tribute to the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Memorial Day has been an official holiday since 1971, but its roots go back much farther. The earliest recognition of this day, according to, occurred about a year after the ending of the Civil War on May 5, 1866. At that time, it was called Decoration Day.

Two years later, General John Logan, the leader of an organization for Union Civil War veterans, called for a day of remembrance on May 30.

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” Logan said.

General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery that day as 5,000 people decorated the graves of 20,000 Civil War soldiers.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue,” Garfield said in his speech.

In 1971, Congress officially declared the last Monday in May a national holiday and expanded it to include veterans who died in any American war.

To commemorate this occasion, we thought it would be appropriate to honor veterans by sharing some stories we’ve posted recently.

To veterans, one and all, thank you for your service.

Aug. 7, 2020

116th Engineer Combat Battalion remembering the Korean War with 70th-anniversary reunion

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George Marriott with his barbed wire installation crew. | Courtesy George Marriott

It was January of 1951 when George Marriott of Rigby left with his unit in the Idaho Army National Guard to serve overseas in the Korean War.

He was one of 233 men who made up the 116th Engineer Combat Battalion.

His journey began at Camp Stoneman in California, followed by a 30-day voyage on a ship. After a brief stop in Japan, he landed in Pusan on the southern tip of South Korea sometime in late February.

Marriott’s war experiences are unlike others who have served overseas. He didn’t lose any comrades in battle nor did he experience any combat. Marriott tells most of his duties consisted of building roads and bridges.

“The roads on the mountain passes were very narrow, and we had to extend the road out in places so the tanks would have room to go up the road,” Marriott says.


Aug. 27, 2020

Despite losing an eye in the Iraq war, local veteran says he has no regrets about serving his country

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Simon Garcia of Rigby lost his left eye during Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2004. | Photo on left courtesy Simon Garcia

It’s a day Simon Garcia will remember for the rest of his life.

It was May 6, 2004, and Garcia was a 20-year-old kid in the Oregon Army National Guard. He and his comrades in the HHC 2/162 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team were sent to provide supplies and reinforcements during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

Garcia had been in Iraq for several weeks, and on that day, he was preparing for combat as an M249 gunner. He recalls hearing what he describes as a “‘Star Wars’-like phaser noise” to his left before something exploded. It was an improvised explosive device, and as he turned his head, a piece of shrapnel hit him in the face.

“The shrapnel broke my jaw,” Garcia says. “It went through my left eye socket behind my optic nerve and lodged in the upper part of my eye socket next to my nose.”


Mar. 12, 2021

Local high school student accepted to oldest military academy in the U.S.

Annika Scott, 17, was accepted to West Point Academy in New York. | Rett Nelson,

A local high school student is gearing up for an expedition that will take her on the adventure of a lifetime.

Bonneville High School Senior Annika Scott is one of three students in Idaho who will be joining the ranks of the cadet class of 2025 at West Point Academy in New York this June.

Getting accepted to the oldest and most prestigious military school in the United States is no small feat and Annika tells she’s thrilled with the opportunity.

“It is a really big honor to be one of the few in Idaho to get to go to West Point,” Annika says.