Local observances set for Memorial Day

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Memorial Day observances in Clark County include two services today at Vancouver Barracks.

The back-to-back Memorial Day events at the Barracks will commemorate local service members, as well as a big swath of American history, as the Army transfers the remaining barracks property to the National Park Service.

Vancouver's Memorial Day ceremony will be at 11 a.m. at the Clark County Veterans War Memorial, on Fort Van

couver Way in the barracks, just east of Interstate 5 off Officers Row, which also is known as East Evergreen Boulevard.

The memorial, dedicated in 1998, recognizes more than 575 service members who died in conflicts ranging from the Spanish-American War in 1898 to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The keynote speaker is U.S. Army Col. Peter Norseth, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 95th Division, which is based at the new Armed Forces Reserve Center in east Vancouver.

Other featured speakers include U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas; State Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver; and Tracy Fortmann, superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Participating units include the 204th Army Reserve Band; 6th Marine Support Battalion; 2nd Brigade, 95th Division Color Guard; 146th Army National Guard Artillery; Buffalo Soldiers; Patriot Guard Riders; Lewis & Clark Young Marines; and the Fort Vancouver Pipe Band.

Larry Smith, Vancouver city councilor and retired Army officer who served at Vancouver Barracks, will host the ceremony.

Smith is co-chairman of the Community Military Appreciation Committee, which is coordinating the event. The nonprofit group was founded to keep the area's military heritage alive after the Army left the barracks. The ceremony is sponsored by Waste Connections.

The barracks post exchange -- now known as a shoppette -- will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to serve Memorial Day visitors. While most of its customers have military connections, the shoppette can sell ready-to-eat snack items and bottled water, soft drinks and other "consumable" beverages to the general public. The shoppette -- the birthplace of the military PX system -- is on the east end of Hatheway Road.

Weather permitting, F-15 fighters from the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing based in Portland will fly over several Southwest Washington events.

Barracks transfer

The 1 p.m. "Post to Park" ceremony will observe the transfer of the East and South Barracks from the Army Reserve to the National Park Service; it will become part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The ceremony will commemorate a U.S. Army presence that dates back to 1849.

The post closure ceremony will be at the Artillery Barracks, 600 East Hatheway Road.

The Army Reserve will be represented by Brig. Gen. Alton Berry, deputy commanding general of the 88th Regional Support Command, and Brig. Gen. Kurt A. Hardin, commander of the 104th Training Division, which was based at Vancouver Barracks before moving to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The National Park Service will be represented by Chris Lehnertz, director of the Pacific West Region, and Fortmann.

The ceremony will be followed at 2 p.m. by National Park Service tours and the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's annual "Soldiers Bivouac" living history encampment on the historic Parade Ground.