The high pricetag for America’s freedoms was the theme woven through the red, white and blue fabric of Hood River’s Memorial Day observance.
Several area Boy Scout Troops passed out flags to more than 400 people who gathered around the Veteran’s Monument in Idelwild Cemetery on Monday. The crowd were reminded by six different speakers to never forget the “ultimate sacrifice” paid by many fallen soldiers to safeguard their liberties.
Keynote speaker Dr. Robert Neiman told the story of a young boy named “Tommy” who visited Arlington National Cemetery with his father. Upon observing the thousands of white crosses, the child asked his parent if they stood for the letter “T” in his name. According to Neiman, the father hesitated a moment and then answered, “yes Tommy they do, they stand for you and for me — and a lot of other people too.”
Neiman, a Brookside Manor resident, reiterated that his audience had a responsibility to be good citizens in return for the risks military personnel had taken on their behalf. He drew applause when he said, “Our government isn’t perfect, but this is the best government there is on Planet Earth and everyday you need to renew your commitment to God and Country.”
Five field memorials, reminiscent of those set up over mass gravesites in Europe during World War I and II, were erected on the cemetery lawn. The standing weapons, which held a helmet and were flanked by boots, were dedicated to the men and women who were currently on active duty in Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“These represent the blood of our youth doing something to make the world a better place,” said American Legion Post No. 22 Commander Denny Leonard.
Dan Brophy of Pointman Ministries led an invocation that urged his listeners to pray daily for the families who had lost sons and daughters in the Armed Forces.
“Our children need to never forget that freedom isn’t free,” Brophy said.
Linda Adams, Hood River’s veteran affairs officer, thanked all of the people who had worked “behind the scenes” to prepare for the annual ceremony.
“The biggest thanks is to our veterans and those who gave their lives to preserve the invaluable freedom we have today,” Adams said.
Mark Anthony, also of Pointman Ministries, recited a Biblical text during his benediction that a man could show no greater love than to lay down his life for another.
“We are to remember, and remember the one (God) who brought us all here,” Anthony said.
The timing of the Oregon Air National Guard flyover coincided with Amanda Rickenbach’s arrival at the podium to sing the National Anthem. The planes soared overhead and circled the city during the solo performance by the senior at Hood River Valley High School.
“It is our duty and our legacy to honor our veterans each Memorial Day,” said Leonard Porterfield during his dedication of 11 new plaques along the “Walk of Honor.” The 33 testimonials at the base of the monument list the names of service men and women who have been cremated and do not have gravestones elsewhere.
Their families were given special seating at the event and many of these individuals became tearful when two American Legion Junior Auxiliary members laid poppy wreaths on these markers.
The 2003 Memorial Day ceremony closed with a trumpet solo of “Taps” played by Daniel Chance, a member of the high school band.