Honoring America's freedom

Quiet service at Overlook Park pays respect to military men and women

Quiet and brief, Monday’s Veterans Day observance in Hood River lacked the awaited jet flyover but was grounded in reverence and respect.

More than 200 people, ranging from veterans with canes to six-year-old Cub Scouts, stood or sat at Overlook Memorial Park as the community paid its respects to America’s veterans.

As pastor Michael Harrington said in his invocation, “Never forget the sacrifices that were made so we can enjoy this freedom of ours.”

Guest speaker RaeLynn Gill, a “Marine Mom,” called on the crowd to learn about the sacrifices that went into the founding of the American republic, and to remember the dedication that soldiers give from the day they start training.

Her son, Jesse, 20, last summer completed basic training in what she called “the toughest boot camp in the US. Armed Forces.” He is currently a student at Oregon State University.

“Those soldiers are protecting the freedoms and civil rights they’re giving up while doing the training,” Gill, who is a reporter for the Hood River News. “They do so in the same spirit of sacrifice that created the greatest country on earth.”

Gill said, “Today my heart goes out to the other mothers and fathers of men and women in military service. As a Marine Mom I know my son is ready to be called upon to give his life to protect our freedoms.” Gill also has a son, Luke, 19, who is a student at Eastern Washington State University.

Gill noted that 1.4 million people have died in military service since the War of Independence.

“We need to never forget those ultimate sacrifices that have been made by those men and women and their families,” she said.

Gill recounted sending her son off to camp with a bag of toiletries and $20 and nothing else, and then rejoicing as well as worrying over letters home.

“I particularly looked forward to the letters home,” she said. “It brought tears to my eyes to read those letters,” as Jesse recounted the physical and emotional rigors of boot camp.

“Please remember the heroes and the fellow soldiers who loved this nation by showing their patriotism with active service,” she said.

“Whether or not you agree with the (government’s) policies, the people in the military service need our respect,” Gill said, to applause from the crowd.

“It’s easy to engage in a political discussion in the warmth of your home over a hot cup of coffee,” she went on. “But remember it’s the men and women of the armed services that have given you that freedom to sit there and know you’re protected.”

“We need to be sure we thank (the veterans) who are here today. Remember the heroes — the people whose names are inscribed on the post behind me,” Gill said, pointing to the memorial stone with the names of Hood River County’s military fallen.

“Walk away knowing that (members of the military) start their sacrifice on your behalf from day one,” she said.

Matt Ihle of Hood River brought his two sons, Luke, 8, and David, 4, to hear such a message.

“I think it’s imporant that they understand that their privileges have been bought with a price,” Ihle said.

Luke said, “I thought the speeches were cool — especially the one about boot camps.”

Veterans Harvey Crapper and Jerry Willis both praised the service at Overlook Park.

“I thought it was a very good service. And it was a good sized crowd,” said Crapper, a veteran of the Coast Guard in War II, former Hood River Legion post commander, and 57-year member of the post.

Willis, who described his military service as “on the edge of ‘Nam and just before it,” served in the Navy in the Caribbean as an electrician’s mate during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Willis was aboard a vessel that helped escort Soviet ships carrying missiles out of Cuba.

“It was almost a war. You didn’t know what would happoen next,” he said.

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