Local veterans honored as Moroni dedicates memorial
By Suzanne Dean
MORONI—About 250 people gathered to dedicate the Moroni veteran’s memorial and to honor four local veterans last weekend.
The event on Saturday, Aug. 31 marked the near completion of a project to transform a weed-ridden lot at the east entrance of the city into a memorial graced by plants, flowers, pathways and a soldier statue.
The one element of the design that was not complete is a granite monument. It will arrive in about five weeks and be set up near the soldier statue. At that time, tiles engraved with names of 689 local residents who have served in the military will be posted on both sides of the monument. For the dedication, the tiles were laid out at ground level in front of the podium.
“Let’s think of these names, 689 names of people from this little town who have defended the United States of America in one way or another,” Mayor Paul Bailey told the crowd.
Bailey said beautifying the corner and purchasing the various monument fixtures cost about $90,000. He said the land and all money spent had been donated—no city funds were used. And much of the landscaping had been done by volunteers.
Lining up with flags at the rear of the dedication crowd were local Boy Scouts, members of local veterans groups and the Patriot Guard Riders, a Utah motorcycle group whose mission is to honor fallen military heroes.
After Boy Scouts officiated at a flag ceremony, Tim Blackham, patriarch of the Moroni Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave the dedicatory prayer.
Then the American Legion set off a cannon salute, followed by a local band playing “Amazing Grace.” Band members included Dennis Davis, Doug Smith, Todd Hansen, David Simmons and Nicholas Simmons.
Most of the rest of the program was devoted to honoring the four veterans. The veterans or their family members represented conflicts from the Blackhawk War to Desert Storm.
The first was Elliot Arnoldson, 92, who served in World War II. He joined the Army the week after graduating from what was then Moroni High School. He spent two years in the Army, including time in the Philippines.
He used the GI bill to get his college education. He graduated from Snow College and Utah State University and ended up as an administrator in the North Sanpete School District.
He served as mayor of Moroni for eight years. His wife, LaRane, has passed away. They were married for 71 years
Another honoree was Paul Larson, who enlisted in the Marines three days after graduation from North Sanpete High School in 1968. Early the next year, while on leave, he married his wife, Kathy.
He served 11 months in Vietnam and was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and other service medals.
While in Vietnam, he volunteered to provide security for doctors, medical corpsmen and dentists providing care to villagers. For this, the Vietnamese government awarded him the Civil Action Medal.
After his active-duty time, he spent 29 years in the Utah National Guard and Army Reserves, retiring 1997 as a lieutenant colonel. Since then, he has been active in veterans groups.
The third veteran, Jay Arnold Carter, graduated from high school in Sanpete County and then went to Salt Lake City for employment. In 1968, he was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam.
He spent one year in the infantry in the Mekong Delta south of Saigon. He says it rained every day for six months, and was hot and dry for the other six months.
After returning to the Moroni, Jay joined the 1457th Engineer Battalion of the Utah National Guard stationed at Mt. Pleasant as a heavy equipment operator. He served in the guard for 29 years. Carter was deployed with his unit to serve in Iraq during Desert Storm.
Jay Carter and his wife, Mary, have lived in Moroni for 46 years. He worked at Nephi Rubber Products for 44 years.
The final veteran to be honored, Brent Bailey, joined the Utah National Guard when he was 17 and served for 28 years. He worked up to first sergeant in the 1457th Engineer Battalion and was deployed during Desert Storm.
He has a legacy of military service in his family. A great-grandfather served in the Blackhawk War. His grandfather served in World War I. And both his father and father-in-law served in served in World War II.
He married his high school sweetheart, Anita Mower. They have been married for 48 years.
Following the ceremony, numerous people in the audience came up to the tiles lined in front of the podium to look for names of relatives.