Provo residents recognize the sacrifice of fallen veterans, their families

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Keynote speaker Kim Olsen speaks on the importance of honoring veterans. The Provo City Freedom Festival hosted its annual Memorial Day Service at the Provo City Cemetery on Monday, May 27. (Payton Pingree)

Hundreds of Provo residents gathered at the Provo City Cemetery on Monday, May 27 for the Freedom Festival’s annual Memorial Day Service.

The event featured several speakers including Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, keynote speaker Kim Olsen and youth speaker Boston Larson.

The Timpview High School Band, directed by John Bolton, played prelude music and a special musical number, “America the Beautiful.” Provo City Royalty, including Miss Provo, led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The speakers’ messages centered around the importance of recognizing fallen veterans and fighting for fundamental freedoms.

“We thank all who serve selflessly, sacrificing the values that make our country great so they are continuously upheld,” Kaufusi said. “Freedom is not free. In honor of our fallen, we thank their families and friends for sacrifices that only they can truly understand.”

Larson, a high school student and winner of the Freedom Festival speech contest, spoke about the significance of First Amendment rights in daily life. He explained that it is the freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition that hold the nation together and allow citizens to live freely.

“Let us honor the legacies of those who came before us by practicing and exercising our rights responsibly and with respect for others,” Larson said. “Let us embrace the diversity of thought and belief that defines us as a nation.”

Olsen, the keynote speaker of the service, is a Gold Star Mother, meaning she has lost a child in service of the U.S. armed forces. Her son, Nigel, died at 21 years old while serving in the Marines in Afghanistan. She shared how her family was deeply impacted by this loss, and learned lessons of resilience and strength.

“Through time, we have been able to accept the pain left by their death and move forward in life, with a smile on our face,” Olsen said. “We live with love and joy because at the end of the day, we want them to be as proud of us as we are of them.”

Olsen expressed her gratitude for the support of others and this year’s Memorial Day Service.

“We as a family, and my fellow gold star families, will always remain grateful for the kindness of others who continue to remember and love our loved ones,” Olsen said. “One of the greatest fears is that we will forget our sons and daughters and the great sacrifice they gave for our country, but it is events like this that assure us that they will not be forgotten.”

Kaufusi and Olsen placed a wreath on display to the crowd to commemorate the service and honor the sacrifices made by those serving the country.

“I hope we gain a greater appreciation of our military and a greater appreciation of patriotism and the sacrifices that people are out making so that we can still have our freedoms,” Robyn Pulham, Freedom Festival associate director, said.

The service concluded with a military medley by the Timpview High School Band, as well as a 21-gun salute by the Provo Police SWAT Team and a rendition of “Taps” by James Wytiaz.

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