SALEM – At least 1,000 veterans and their families, including many World War II veterans, came to the grounds of the state Capitol on the 70th anniversary of D-Day for the dedication of a new memorial honoring Oregonians who served during the war.
Oregon’s new World War II memorial that opened Friday features a 33-foot-tall granite pillar with walls listing the names of nearly 3,800 Oregonians killed in World War II. The project took five years and more than $1.2 million to complete. Construction began in February.
“I’m just tickled pink that I lived long enough to see it,” said Bill Markham, a WWII combat pilot and former state legislator.
Markham was among the speakers and dignitaries at the event, which included Gov. John Kitzhaber, former Gov. Ted Kulongowski, Oregon National Guard officers and Bob Maxwell, of Bend, the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient.
There were also many humble war heroes in the audience, said Jim Willis, vice president of the Oregon WWII Memorial Foundation, which helped create the memorial.
Frank Moore, 91, was on a beach in Normandy 70 years ago. He said that as he read the names inscribed on the memorial walls, he thought about what the young men who died in the war could have contributed to society had they lived.
“These were 19-, 20-, 21-year-old kids,” Moore said. “In a matter of seconds they were gone forever.”
The ceremony honored not only those Oregonians who fought overseas, but their entire generation, including those who supported the war on the home front. Willis reminded the crowd of “Rosie the Riveter” but also noted the importance of “Wanda the Welder” and “Amy the Ammunition Packer” as well.
The event may have been the last large gathering of Oregon’s WWII veterans, who are in their 80s and 90s. The Veterans Administration estimates there are a little more than 1 million living WWII veterans, with about 18,000 in Oregon.