American flags flapped in the wind of the small cemetery near Hillyard as a modest gathering honored a gone but not forgotten group of soldiers – 56 members of the Grand Army of the Republic.
“On behalf of Post No. 1474 of Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States we present this symbol of remembrance,” said Trustee Charlie Dubois, as he placed a wreath at the Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, memorial. “To you comrades, who have departed, we present a silent salute.”
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization of Union veterans of the Civil War. According to the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War’s Web site, the group “founded soldiers’ homes, was active in relief work and in pension legislation.”
In 1868, the organization began a day of remembrance for all fallen veterans, originally called Decoration Day and now Memorial Day.
GAR helped elect several U.S. presidents “and, for a time, it was impossible to be nominated on the Republican ticket without the endorsement of the GAR voting bloc,” according to articles about the organization. Six post-Civil War presidents were Grand Army members.
The last encampment of the GAR was in 1949 and the last member, Albert Woolson, died in 1956 at age 107, according to the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War Web site.
On Monday, the VFW chaplain called out names of the local GAR members, beginning with: “Atkinson, Robert … Bott, Peter … Briggs, Anson D. … Carey, A.J. … Cochran, Stephen” – and continued until he’d named them all.
The ceremony ended with the raising of the flag by the Rogers High School Jr. ROTC. The Spokane Area Veterans Honor Guard provided the 21-gun salute.
The Memorial Day event wasn’t well attended, but Evergreen Cemetery is tucked out of view down a rough dirt road off North Market Street.
The quaint cemetery has been the target of vandalism over the years, and 2008 was no exception.
Dubois said nearly half the headstones had been knocked over when he and others arrived last week to prepare for Monday’s tribute.
Said Dubois, a veteran of World War II: “I almost cried.”
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