Saturday wasn’t Veteran’s Day. Nor was it Memorial Day. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t the perfect day to honor American veterans.
About two dozen people gathered at Evergreen Memorial Gardens to recognize and give credit to 92 Clark County residents who served in the armed forces, yet weren’t given a full military burial at the time of their death.
American Legion Rev. Jerry Keesee read each name for all to hear, as members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood by, flags held over their shoulders. Army reserves members folded a flag, handing it to and the legion provided a three-gun salute. After each name was read, stoic Army Spc. Karl Baker rang a brass bell.
“It’s an honor for me — I was never on the front lines, I never had to carry a gun,” said Sally Garcia of Vancouver, a 20-year Navy veteran and American Legion member who accepted the folded flag on behalf of the fallen. She paused to catch her emotions, tears forming behind her sunglasses. “It helps me to remember my fellow veterans that didn’t make it.”
Saturday’s ceremony has been repeated about two times a month at Evergreen Memorial Gardens over the last year, Army Spc. James Hanrahan said. His unit travels western Washington, reading off names and providing a military salute to veterans who weren’t given a military send-off, either because their families did not know about the option, or possibly refused it.
The names are drawn from the Taps database, which is compiling the thousands of Washington veterans who fit the category. Some served as far back as World War II, Hanrahan said.
The ceremonies are held as names come in, so they have no set schedule, he said. People interested in attending future services can call Evergreen Memorial Gardens at 360-892-6060.
“It means a lot, because we get to render the honors for men and women who served in the past,” Hanrahan said. “We’re the new generation, but they’re the ones who set the legacy for us to follow.”