A special field memorial will be erected at Idlewild Cemetery on Monday to honor World War veterans who are now succumbing to old age at a rate of 2,000 per day.
The Memorial Day tribute is reminiscent of markers that were put up by mass graves on the battlefields of Europe where 407,318 military personnel died between 1939-45.
“It’s important on this day to thank and honor our veterans, but we really need to do that every day,” said Linda Adams, Hood River’s veteran affairs officer.
American Legion Post No. 22 Commander Denny Leonard said it was a common practice during both World War I and II for soldiers to stand the weapon of their fallen comrade above his burial site. His dogtags, hat and boots were then placed around the gun to register the identity of the deceased.
Leonard said the field memorial in Hood River will pay respect not only to war dead — but to their brothers and sister who are currently in harm’s way around the globe.
“We are supporting our people in life and in death,” Leonard said.
He and Adams believe that the Oregon National Guard, made up of “citizen soldiers,” should construct the memorial because of their strong local presence. They said it will be only one of many diverse duties of the Guard, which is increasingly being deployed to meet military, security and emergency demands. After the field remembrance is raised, floral tributes will be placed around it by the Legion and both Parkdale Post No. 6987 and Hood River Post 1479 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The floral wreaths presented by area service organizations and community businesses and individuals will be set up as usual around the base of the Veteran’s Monument.
The National Guard plays a strong role in several aspects of the May 26 ceremony, with a Color Guard leading Boy Scouts, veterans and community members in a parade. Marchers will leave the Down Manor parking lot at 9:45 a.m. and travel through the north gate of the cemetery. During the program, the Color Guard will provide a rifle salute to America’s military while air units take wing with a flyover.
The Mistress of Ceremonies, Eva Summers, is also a retired member of the Guard. The Parkdale native is an Air Force veteran who was deployed while in the West Virginia Guard and sent to the Middle East during Desert Storm. After greeting the audience, Summers will introduce Dan Brophy of Pointman Ministries, who will lead the invocation before the construction of the field memorial. Once the floral tributes have been placed, keynote speaker Robert Neiman will take the podium. The Brookside Manor resident is a World War II veteran with the United States Air Force and currently presides over six vespers services a week and a prison ministry. He has authored six books and holds two doctoral degrees.
Following Neiman’s message, the Hood River Valley High School Band will play the National Anthem and Mark Anthony, also of Pointman Ministries, provides the benediction.
World War II veteran and VFW member Leonard Porterfield then gives recognition to the 11 new markers placed along the “Walk of Honor.” For the third year, County Commission Chair Rodger Schock volunteered his time to erect testimonials along the “Scattered Ashes” pathway to the Monument. Adams said there are now 33 plaques submitted by families of service men and women who have been cremated and do not have gravestones elsewhere.
Schock is among the list of individuals Adams plans to thank for their “behind the scenes” contributions. After her comments and the rifle salute, taps will be played by the high school band during the placement of poppy wreaths.
Because the field memorial has replaced the traditional white crosses on the cemetery lawn, Adams said the Legion Junior Auxiliary will lay poppies — the red flower symbolizing blood spilled on the battlefield — next to each of the Walk of Honor markers only.
This year several area Boy Scout Troops will also provide help with both Memorial Day preparations and the official program.
Adams said these young men have signed on to set up flags at area cemeteries and then help with placement of the floral wreaths at the ceremony.
She said it is very appropriate to have the next generation of citizens paying tribute to those who have come before them to guard their liberties and freedoms.