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Sandy • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, for the most part Monday steered clear of the partisanship that earned him criticism in a 2014 Memorial Day speech, lauding fallen service members and asking Utahns to support their president, however imperfect.
Speaking at Larkin Sunset Gardens cemetery in Sandy, Hatch said he's heard some people "jump all over" Republican Donald Trump "because they don't like him."
"I think we ought to think that through," Hatch said. "He's our president. And yes, I'm sure there are things that we probably don't like about him. But there's an awful lot of things you can like about him. One of them is that he was willing to run as an outsider, and someone who wasn't given much of a chance, and he was able to run for what he considered to be the principles of this country. I know him really well, and I can say, like others with all his faults, if he has our support, he can do a great job."
Hatch's remarks were otherwise apolitical, a far cry from those he made in Woods Cross in 2014, when he criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate and went on to scold "liberal judges."
On Monday, sounding hoarse and apologizing for having lost his voice, Hatch shared the familiar story of his older brother.
When Hatch was 8, he said, he'd been playing in the woods in front of his home when he'd heard his parents crying. Two soldiers had delivered the news that Army Cpl. Jesse Hatch was missing in action after the bomber he was flying in was shot down.
A year and a half later, "they did find his remains, and we had to go through it all again," Hatch said.
Memorial Day can't be celebrated too much, Hatch said, adding that "I have a really rough time putting up with those who are constantly finding fault with our military, who are constantly pretending like we don't have to stand up for freedom. We need to stand up for freedom even more today than in the past. If we don't, we'll lose our freedoms."
Monday's weather was the sort that the day's honorees might have imagined when they thought about what they were fighting to protect cloudless and comfortable. About 300 people attended, and those who arrived too late for a seat under a white canopy used their programs to shield their eyes from the sun. One man flagged down an attendant to bring water to his neighbors, an older retired Army soldier and his wife.
Army Lt. Col. Forrest Cook, a professor of military science at Brigham Young University, spoke of the service that "less than one-half of 1 percent" of Americans choose to provide, and of three personal losses he felt among the 7,222 of those service members who have died in ongoing conflicts.
"We should not make this praise and this recognition and these honors today about war and warfare, but about the warriors who have protected our freedom and this God-given way of life," Cook said.
Veterans at the service took their turns standing and singing along as tenor Brian Stucki belted out their anthems, from "The Army Goes Rolling Along" through "Semper Paratus," for the U.S. Coast Guard.
After the Utah Army National Guard Honor Guard fired its traditional three volleys, retired Master Sgt. John Egbert echoed them with a World War II 37mm anti-tank gun before turning to solemnly bugle taps.
South Jordan resident Carole Loeding and her husband, Keith, have made a annual habit of the Larkin Sunset Gardens service, and Carole always finds taps especially thought-provoking.
"Even though they're people that I don't know, I still am aware of their involvement and their sacrifices, and I often think, 'Where did they get the courage to do this?' " Loeding said.
Orem's Marion Ladd, 91, served in the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and has attended the Sunset Gardens event for six years, he said.
He noted that there were fewer veterans present than in past years. On Monday, he thought not only of a friend who died fighting in World War II, but also of a close friend who flew as a fighter pilot in the Pacific theater and died recently.
After the ceremony, as cemetery staff folded up chairs, Ladd danced with a woman while the Minuteman Brass Quintet played "Blue Skies."