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Memorial Day weaves patriotic theme

June 1, 2005

Hood River County citizens were called to exhibit patriotism that was devoid of “indifference, casualness and cynicism” at Monday’s Memorial Day observance.

Keynote speaker Ed Van Dyke from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs asked his 250-member audience to remember the sacrifices made by the nation’s founders. He said the signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the creation of a nation that was free of tyranny. In spite of the odds against the “rag-tag” Continental Army, Van Dyke said they prevailed because of their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the ideal that would become the United States of America.

“The exact same qualities — all encompassed by the word ‘patriotism’ — have characterized the American fighting man in all of our nation’s wars,” said Van Dyke. “By honoring the fallen we, in some small measure, repay a portion of the debt we owe to all those who died so that others might live in dignity and freedom.

“Our responsibilities as citizens are clear. Patriotism is the debt we owe to our fallen dead. President Ronald Reagan stated it well at the bicentennial ceremony at Yorktown when he said, ‘Let the struggle that took place here remind us all — the freedom we enjoy today has not always existed, and carries no guarantees. In our search for everlasting peace, let all of us resolve to remain so sure of our strength that the victory for mankind we won here is never threatened’,” continued Van Dyke.

He said true patriotism was not linked only to events and to material things. It involved pride and reverence for the spiritual foundation of the nation and, above all, a deep respect for and a fierce, unyielding desire to maintain America’s hard-won freedom.

The red, white and blue theme of Van Dyke’s message was woven throughout the annual ceremony to honor the country’s war dead.

Mt. View Baptist Church Pastor Jack Williams led a prayer for the military men and women currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. He reminded the large crowd to remember that these members of the armed forces had taken an oath to be their defenders.

A gold star banner fluttered in the brisk breeze next to a field memorial set up near the Veterans Obelisk. American Legion Post 22 Commander Dennis Leonard said the banner portrayed a life lost in war and was intended as a tribute to Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Boyles, who once lived in Hood River and died on the battlefield in Iraq.

“Veterans must forever keep alive the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Leonard.

Oregon National Guard Master Sgt. Leroy Himes expressed thankfulness that, in spite of differing opinions over America’s war on terrorism, citizens were supportive of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. He contrasted the present day scenario with the political backlash against military personnel during the Vietnam conflict.

“I’m glad to see that American service men and women are not held up to ridicule in these days. I am glad to see that because when soldiers return home, even if not physically injured, they often carry hidden wounds,” said Himes.

He, Leonard and Van Dyke urged the audience to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens and remain patriotic to the idealogies that had created America.

“That is the pledge that we make to our war dead on this beautiful day in May. Having paid the ultimate price for our freedom, they have the right to demand of us that we preserve, cherish and pass on to future generations of Americans their precious legacy,” said Van Dyke.

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