May 30, 2011 in City, News

Hundreds gather for Memorial Day tribute in Spokane

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Picture story: Memorial Day Ceremony at Fairmount Memorial Park
J. Bart Rayniak photo

US Army Persian Gulf veteran CJ Jones waves her flag during the playing of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along, ” at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Fairmount Memorial Park, Mon., May 30, 2011. She served in the last MASH (Mobile Army Support Hospital) unit, and the first CASH (Combat Support Hospital) during the first Iraqi war.
(Full-size photo)

Marge Brown stood near the graves of eight family members at Fairmount Memorial Park on Monday morning during a moving tribute to all of the soldiers who have died in defense of America.

Brown was among nearly 300 people who gathered in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial for an hourlong holiday observance punctuated with a 21-gun salute.

“It’s good to see they are always remembered,” she said of the soldiers who fought and died for the United States.

She said her late relatives buried there include four veterans of the Navy and one each of the Army and Air Force, including her father.

Service members, veterans and families stood in silence as an American flag was raised to full staff and then dropped to half-staff during the ceremony, only to be raised again at the end of the event.

Tree-lined Fairmount park in northwest Spokane was a blaze of color with flowers on many of the graves and lines of large American flags fluttering gently in the breeze.

A line of 12 banners bore the photographs and names of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those soldiers are among 297 service members from the Pacific Northwest killed in the war on terror, said Randy Ott, of the Marine Corps League, which helps organize the annual event.

As part of the observance, a small bell was rung one time for each of those dead.

A boy near the back of the crowd wore a sweat shirt bearing the inscription, “Defend What’s Ours.”

Darrin Ochs, a member of the American Legion Riders motorcycle group, arrived early to hand out small American flags to people as they arrived.

“It is part of our duty to honor these veterans here,” said Ochs, a former Army medical technician.

A steady stream of visitors moved through the cemetery to pay respects to their late loved ones even while the ceremony was under way.

Brown, of Spokane, said she has made a tradition of going to the cemetery on the Friday before Memorial Day to decorate each of her family graves, and then return during the observance ceremony on Monday.

Memorial Day dates back to the post Civil War period when Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, ordered flowers placed on graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery beginning in 1868.

The observance, originally known as Decoration Day, was held on May 30 for more than a century. In 1971, Congress moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend.

“Memorial Day with its sad sacred memories has come again,” said Jim Bennett, commandant of the Marine Corps League in Spokane.

Honoring those who fell in battle is a heritage granted in valor and blood, he said.

“We cannot forget. The generations to follow us will not forget,” he said.

Randy Shaw, KREM-TV news anchor, appeared as the guest speaker and said that Memorial Day honors soldiers who give so much.

“They don’t go because of glory or fame. They sacrifice their families, their friends, and sometimes their own lives to protect our country,” he said.


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