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News / Clark County News

Pandemic makes for subdued, thoughtful Memorial Day in Vancouver

By Will Campbell, Columbian Associate Editor
Published: May 25, 2020, 2:34pm

It was unlike any other Memorial Day. There was no audience at Vancouver’s Memorial Day observance Monday morning. There were no free hot dogs, the normal tradition for Memorial Day. And there were no speeches by a representative from each branch of the military.

On Monday, about 10 people wearing masks as a precaution against the novel coronavirus gathered in front of the Clark County Veterans War Memorial at the Fort Vancouver National Site to place flowers, take a moment of silence and listen to taps from a military bugle to honor those who died during war.

“It was still nice to have the ceremony,” said Glenn Fisher, who played taps during the ceremony. During two tours in Vietnam, Fisher served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a drone instructor and “tunnel rat.” His job was to search and destroy tunnels dug by Viet Cong troops.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a huge ceremony or a small ceremony. I’m here for those guys right on that wall,” he said, pointing to the marble slab etched with hundreds of local troops’ names.

8 Photos
Veteran Marlene Varga of the Community Military Appreciation Committee, facing with phone, broadcasts a scaled down version of the annual Memorial Day service over Facebook live as "Taps" is played at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Monday morning, May 25, 2020. Varga was also joined by veteran Michael Burton, from left, Fort Vancouver superintendent Tracy Fortmann, veteran Larry Smith and Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle. CMAC was not able to have their annual Memorial Day service, which usually draws hundreds of people, this year because of COVID-19 concerns so they hoped to share the experience over video. Varga said the holiday is not a day for a celebration but a day to remember those lost. "We never forget," she said.
Memorial Day 2020 Photo Gallery

Marlene Varga, organizer of the event and director of operations for the Community Military Appreciation Committee, was tasked with adapting the Memorial Day observance because of the pandemic.

“We’re lucky we live in an age of technology,” she said.

Varga streamed a live-recording video of the ceremony on the group’s Facebook page, which is still available for viewing. The committee also aired a prerecorded video on CVTV honoring troops who died during war.

The video was produced by local media company MMM Productions with the help of a donation from Waste Connections, Varga said. It is available at vimeo.com/showcase/7153381.

“Yes, we miss the ceremony, the luncheon afterwards and the crowds that would come to honor our beloved,” said Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, who stood among the organizers of Monday’s observance. “But, today really is the time to thank those men and women who believed in their country.”

“We’re going to have lots more problems,” she said of the pandemic. “We’ll continue moving forward. We will always have problem solvers to make things work.”