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Nevadans honor veterans’ ‘ultimate sacrifice’ on Memorial Day — PHOTOS

Updated May 28, 2024 - 6:44 pm

This Memorial Day brought Army veteran Doug Rogness back to his time as a commercial pilot.

For years, he took the pilot’s seat for United Airlines. But perhaps his most important flight was bringing home the remains of 1st Lt. Jared Landaker, a Marine who died in 2007 in Iraq War combat.

Landaker’s legacy lives on today through the Seven Stars Foundation, an organization Rogness was reminded of Monday as local veterans and their families reflected on the sacrifices made to defend the United States.

“There’s a lot of people out there who have sacrificed for what we have today,” said Rogness, who now lives in Henderson. “There’s a lot of people who don’t appreciate that.”

Rogness was one of hundreds of Nevadans who gathered in Boulder City’s Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Monday afternoon to honor both lives lost and time served in the U.S. military. Among the crowd were politicians like Rep. Susie Lee and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, and Las Vegas mayoral candidate Shelley Berkley.

Defending the country is no easy task or one that should be taken for granted, Rogness said. Over time, the 72-year-old said he’s noticed younger generations seem to take less interest in what’s happening with geopolitical conflict.

“Everyone used to be really involved, whether you were here at home or you were out fighting,” he said.

‘Respect, sacrifice and service’

Across the sprawling grounds of the cemetery Monday were a slew of American flags. Thirty-four thousand, one hundred of them, to be exact, representing each of the fallen soldiers who are memorialized within the cemetery’s 79 acres.

Col. Mary Devine, director of the Nevada Division of Veterans Services, said groups of volunteers set up the flags throughout the weekend as a physical representation of shared pride.

“Today, we use small American flags as a symbol of our respect, sacrifice and service for our fallen who did not make it home,” she said.

Instead of a scheduled keynote speech from Gov. Joe Lombardo who organizers said couldn’t attend because of a family matter, state Office of Energy head Dwayne McClinton spoke to the crowd about what he learned during his time in the Marines.

He noted Nevada’s official list of fallen heroes in the Nevada State Capitol Building that tallies 895 state residents who died in conflict. Everyone with a family member who served in the Armed Forces has made “the ultimate sacrifice,” McClinton said about those who have suffered the pain of losing a fallen loved one.

“The debt we owe you is one we can never repay,” McClinton said. “There will never be a ceremony or a tribute that will ease the pain.”

Veterans groups from around Southern Nevada also showed their support.

Valerie Pizarro, vice president of the Firefighter Memorial Transport, said her volunteer organization is involved in processionals for fallen first responders in the region. Her husband, Frank, founded the nonprofit largely because of what he witnessed as a first responder during the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City.

Pizarro, whose brothers and father also served, said it’s vital for everyone to understand what military families give up for a sense of collective safety.

“We know many people from the Vietnam War days,” said Pizarro, who grew up on the Fort Leonard Wood military base in Missouri. “I was small, but I was aware because many of my friends’ fathers and brothers didn’t come home.”

Contact Alan Halaly at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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