5 years after death in Afghanistan, Monticello still remembers Aaron Butler

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MONTICELLO — On any given weekend in Utah, chances are good you can find a 5K or 10K to run or walk. To really understand why a run in San Juan County Saturday morning was so important, you have to go back five years.

In August of 2017, the body of 27-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler returned home to Monticello. He was a Green Beret with the U.S. Army Special Forces and was killed in Afghanistan.

His funeral was an event in Monticello, where everybody seems to know everybody — and where Butler grew up to be a four-time state wrestling champion.

On Saturday, the run and ceremony were hosted to remember and honor him. His mother said the family does it all the time anyway.

“We have our little shrine to Aaron, and we have our moments,” said Laura Butler. “We talk about him, refer to him, tell the funny stories.”

However, to have so many people in the community still thinking about her son and his sacrifice, that’s really special to the family.

“We appreciate it and the community,” said Laura Butler with tears in her eyes, “always reaches out.”

The run wasn’t just about Butler, though. Pictures of others who died serving our country lined the running routes to inspire runners to keep going and not give up. Those are words Butler lived by.

“He was a very special person. He was a special warfighter. He was a special friend and teammate,” said Dan Nelson.

Nelson was injured in the same explosion that killed Butler. Not only were they friends, but Nelson was also Butler’s commanding officer. He said he still feels the burden of Butler not coming home alive.

“I guess I’m supposed to, right?” said Nelson. “My hope is instead of letting it destroy me, I’m hoping to do something positive in Aaron’s memory.”

So, Nelson started the Aaron Butler Memorial Foundation. It’s the foundation that organized this event for Aaron and all those soldiers in the pictures.

This is the fourth time the foundation has held a running event, but it’s usually held in Boise where Nelson lives.

This year, for the first time, the foundation decided to hold it in Monticello.

“We wanted to bring this event to Monticello and honor the village that raised us,” said Adam Butler, who is Aaron Butler’s brother and on the board of directors for the foundation. “They say it takes a village, and we were lucky. We got a good one.”

It’s this village where, even five years later, people are truly remembering one of their own.

“He is not forgotten here,” said Laura Butler. “Everyone still knows him, and we appreciate it more than they know.”

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