By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
May 31, 2006
The keynote speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony equated respect for the flag with respect for the principles upon which America was founded.
Retired Army Command Sgt. Gerald Schleining said respect for the flag paid tribute to the soldiers, sailors and Marines who had fought and died under the red, white and blue banner.
“The flag is often the rallying point for our losses, our ideals and our sacrifices. We should all serve as advocates for our veterans and support and protect our national colors,” said Schleining.
The message delivered by the Oregon Veteran Service Officer for the American Legion fit the setting. Hundreds of flags of all sizes flapped in a stiff breeze across the landscape of Idlewild Cemetery on the morning of May 29.
Schleining gave a true-life story to underscore the importance of his words. He spoke of 5-year-old Hunter Youngblood, who lost his father, Travis, last year to a roadside bomb in Iraq.
The child had always been taught to respect the flag even though he wasn’t old enough to grasp the concept of liberty, said Schleining.
So, it became a source of confusion for Hunter to view media reports of people burning or destroying the banner. It was especially troubling to the young boy because seeing a flag brought both he and his mother, Laura, comfort.
“When my husband died they gave me the American flag in his place. Every time I see the flag being raised now I feel that he is near,” she had told Schleining.
To Hunter, each glimpse of a flag reinforces his belief that “Daddy is a hero and an angel.”
Hood River Mayor Linda Streich recounted one of her own childhood memories. She spoke of the military service of her late father, Charles “Pete” Fisk, a Marine.
Although Streich lost her father at a young age, his uniform was kept neatly folded in the hall closet. She remembered trying on the “cover” and gazing at the brass and insignias sewn on the lapels.
“But what really caught this child’s fancy was the medal that was pinned across the chest of the uniform. That medal read ‘Expert Rifleman’ and was proof to me that he was a hero,” she said.
Rev. Don Howell and his son, Army Private First Class Nolan Howell both played a role in the ceremony. The elder Howell, pastor of Cascade Assembly of God Church in Cascade Locks, prayed that God would protect members of the armed forces.
His son, a medic recently injured while on active duty in Iraq, expressed gratitude for being healed from his wounds.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for his hand of protection on my life,” he said. “I also pray for my fellow soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”