Originally Published: May 27, 2012 12:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - "Well, it's been a long time," said Mayor Marlin Kuykendall at the first flag-raising ceremony at downtown Prescott's Hassayampa Inn in about half a century Saturday morning.
Some photos show a flag on the rooftop circa 1961 or '62, but Kuykendall was pretty sure it wasn't up the first time he ate there in 1959. But that's beside the point.
"Today is the start of a very important weekend for all of us as Americans," Kuykendall told the crowd of more than 40, including several local officials. "And it gives us an opportunity to honor those (who) have served before us, and the sacrifices they have made so we can do things like this, here in Prescott, Arizona."
Michael Kouvelas, the hotel's general manager, decided to have the colors installed on Memorial Day weekend after looking through old photos earlier this year.
It's hard to peg down an exact date on when the flag was taken down. Other facts, however, are more certain.
"It was May 16, 1942. That's when I enlisted, 70 years ago," said Lt. Col. John Mortimer, a 92-year-old U.S. Army veteran who was the ceremony's guest of honor.
"Laddie, he's been part of a lot of Honor Guards lately, sometimes five services a day. These World War II veterans, they're fading so fast," said Liza, his wife of nearly four decades. "I agree with Tom Brokaw - these people are truly The Greatest Generation."
Mortimer, originally from Pennsylvania, served in the European Theater during World War II, fought as a reinforcement in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and three Battle Stars.
Liza, British by birth, American by naturalization and ensemble - a red suit, trimmed in white, topped with a blue bag - is especially thankful for her husband's service.
"I think about that from time to time - how, without America, Britain might not be Britain - it could've been under a Nazi regime today," she said.
Before coming to Prescott, Mortimer worked two decades in bank management in California, where he met his wife and taught her "how to jitterbug, the G.I. way." He's a lifelong member of the Reserve Officers Association, was reactivated for the Korean Conflict, and has volunteered at Veterans Affairs hospitals for nearly two decades, amid other lengthy stints in service clubs.
After smiling and chatting with people at the ceremony, Mortimer shared a modest request for Memorial Day.
"I'd like people to be thankful for all the people who served their country in wartime and even in peacetime," he said. "That's it."
It's the kind of thing, perhaps, you shouldn't have to put a date on.