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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘They are at peace’: Families and veterans gather at Fairmount Memorial Park for annual ceremony for passed loved ones

Hundreds of flags dotted the headstones at Fairmount Memorial Park, coming alive in unison across the cemetery with each gust of wind.

They’re installed meticulously each Memorial Day, many bearing the names of veterans that are flown in the same place every year. Nearly 4,000 flags are placed in the five parks and cemeteries Fairmount Memorial Association operates.

The sea of stars and stripes offers a fitting backdrop for another Fairmount tradition, the annual Memorial Day ceremony conducted by the Marine Corps League that took place Monday morning. Dozens attended to pray, hear speeches, socialize and honor the lives of loved ones they lost in military service.

“They are at peace, for in a war of conflict, they found the serenity of death. Their memories will fill our land like the benediction,” said Commandant Kari Sobisky with the Marine Corps League of Spokane. “It is for us, the living, to establish a society that will ban war and permanently retain the freedom and equal rights of all men and women of all nations. We must see to it that those honored dead do not lie in vain.”

In attendance were Ginger Bailey and Tammy Brown, friends from their high school days. Bailey’s family tree is peppered with service members, so much so that the family has a row of flags dedicated to each veteran at Fairmount. When Bryan Smith played each branch’s theme song and asked attendees to stand during their branch’s song, Brown and Bailey stood for nearly the whole compilation, locking arms with each other.

“You still feel an attachment even if you don’t know them,” Bailey said.

On their minds all Memorial Day was the same man: Brown’s late husband who was also Bailey’s twin brother. He joined the Navy when he was 18, enlisting before graduating from high school and marrying Brown shortly after.

When he turned 18, his mother helped him pack his bags and sent him to the service, following in the footsteps of many other men in the family. He served for more than 17 years.

Bailey fondly recalled her twin teaching her many life skills in childhood. When they were 7, he taught her how to ride a bike by shoving her down a hill and telling her how to pedal. She remembered asking him, “How do I stop?” To which he replied, “You crash.” She laughed.

Brown still remembers their first interaction when she was a freshman in high school. She took classes to intentionally be around him, and introduced herself by purposefully dropping her books at his feet to see if he would pick them up. He did.

“I remember my late husband every day,” Brown said. “I come to honor him and my mother -in -law, she was my best friend.”

Grief has clouded many of her memories from the first year since her husband passed away, but she remembered attending the Fairmount ceremony with her mother-in-law in 2000, the first year she had been without her husband since her freshman year.

It was Bailey’s first year attending, but she’ll likely be back, she said.

Chana Fox came to the ceremony to support her son, Anthony, a Young Marines Lance Corporal who helped with the event with three other youngsters from the Young Marines. Fox was thinking of her best friend, Harvey Miller, who died while deployed in Afghanistan in 2004. Happy memories of him included the calls home she would get while he was deployed with life updates saying he met someone, was getting married and eventually expecting a child. Those memories were overshadowed by the moment she heard news of his death.

She now takes her kids to visit his gravesite in Spokane Valley on his birthday, Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

“I think just knowing people are remembering those who gave it their all and have fallen is pretty important,” Fox said.