The crisp morning weather gave way to bright sunshine just in time for the Memorial Day observance Monday at the Fort Vancouver parade grounds.
The observance, hosted by the Community Military Appreciation Committee, included a posting of colors, an Army band performance, the release of doves and several speakers who shared their thoughts on the significance of Memorial Day.
“Let us always remember that Memorial Day is about coming together to pay homage to those who gave all of us the freedom of our great nation,” said Larry Smith, an Army veteran and chair of the Community Military Appreciation Committee. “The measure of a man or woman may be their willingness to serve their country; the measure of a country may be their willingness to honor those who served and gave their lives.”
The audience filled three seating areas and extended into the lawn to listen to the speakers after an opening prayer from Chaplain Joseph Ellefson and the National Anthem, sung by Rey Reynolds.
Scout Troop 479/5479 and the Lewis and Clark Young Marines arrived in full uniform to help hoist a garrison American flag at the center of the field.
The speakers included Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, National Park Service Superintendent Tracy Fortmann, Meredith McMackin, the mother of a U.S. Marine who died in Iraq in 2007, and keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania.
“To many, Memorial Day is the barbecues, the hot dogs, the picnics, the big box stores, the mattress sales, but we all know that it’s so much more than that,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “And too often our nation takes for granted the freedom that all of us Americans enjoy. But I hope that today will serve as a reminder to all of us that those freedoms were paid dearly with the lives of others.”
McEnerny-Ogle, who volunteers with the Community Military Appreciation Committee, said Vancouver is lucky to have a rich military history at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and a community that supports its military and veterans.
In her keynote speech, Perez hailed the American soldiers who have died in combat and expressed her desire for the federal government to better support veterans and military communities.
Perez said the deaths of fallen soldiers should serve as a call to action to Americans and the government to protect veterans, who “deserve to know that the nation they have sworn to protect will do absolutely everything in its power to protect them.”
“Despite the pain of their loss, their service and those sacrifices are not lost,” Perez said. “They are timeless. They are forever part of the fabric that binds us together as a nation. We must honor their sacrifices, not just with words, but with actions.”
After the speeches, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7824 Honor Guard performed a rifle salute, followed by the release of 51 doves over the parade grounds.
To close the ceremony, the 204th Army Band of Vancouver played a medley of service songs before the honor guard retired the colors, marking the end of the observance.
Attendees then enjoyed a free lunch of hot dogs, chips and cookies, with McEnerny-Ogle and Perez in aprons doling out ketchup and mustard.