June 2, 2021 — Memorial Day was recognized locally in a number of ways on Monday, May 31, by members of the public and veterans’ groups.
The day began with an early morning ceremony at thePacific Sunset Memorial Cemetery, which included members of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3232, American Legion Post 59 and the Florence Chapter of Disabled Veterans of America.
The veterans lowered the service flags of the U.S. Coast Guard, Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force to half-staff in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice paid by many who served.
U.S. President Joseph Biden and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown released statements recognizing Memorial Day and asked that all federal and state buildings fly flags at half-staff in recognition.
“On Memorial Day, we honor and reflect upon the courage, integrity and selfless dedication of the members of our Armed Forces who have made the greatest sacrifice in service to our Nation,” Biden stated. “Whether in the waters of the Pacific, on the beachheads of Europe, in the deserts of the Middle East, or in the mountains of Afghanistan, American service members have given their lives to uphold our Constitution and to defend the safety and freedoms of our citizens. These patriots embody the best of the American spirit. They put themselves on the line for our shared values — for duty, honor, country — and they paid the ultimate price. Our Nation can never fully repay the debt we owe to our fallen heroes and their families.”
While most of 2020’s Memorial Day events were cancelled, modifications were instituted this year which made gathering to honor the deceased safer and easier.
Florence Elks Lodge 1858 shortened their annual event significantly and eliminated the portion of the program which allowed for vets to introduce themselves and speak of their service. The group did allow for brief speeches from lodge leaders and presented the service colors to those assembled.
The highest profile commemoration of the day took place at the Florence Veteran’s Memorial Park on Bay Street.
Health-related changes at this venue included the replacement of the bleachers used for seating in previous years with chairs that allowed for more room between attendees, in addition to a shortened ceremony.
The warm sunny weather and the new health protocols allowed for more than 200 community members to attend the solemn service, which centered around the presentation of Memorial Wreaths and the laying of those wreaths in the Siuslaw River by members of U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River.
During the event, VFW Chaplain Ken Henderson gave a brief benediction and reminded the attendees that more than a dozen local veterans have passed away since the last Memorial Service was held.
This year, VFW Post 3232 coordinated the recognition and VFW Commander Fred Burns gave the Memorial Day Address, after the playing of all branch service anthems.
There was one glitch in the event as the public address system was inoperative, but those speaking did their best to be heard by the crowd.
The event ended with a closing prayer and the playing of taps by Dennis Hamilton.
Memorial Day was first officially recognized by President Lyndon Johnson on May 26, 1966. although events to recognize the sacrifice of fallen Americans in service to their country have been held since the Revolutionary War. There have been many other efforts to acknowledge fallen soldiers, including those who fought to split the country over the issue of slavery during the Civil War. All of these events are now included in the overall tribute to the fallen, regardless of the conflict in which they perished.
According to Brown, “On Memorial Day, and every day, we remember the fallen. We remember their courage and tenacity. We remember their dedication and determination, their service and sacrifice. We take this day to honor and remember our veterans, fallen heroes, military members and their families across Oregon. Together, we resolve to remember and honor those who have given their lives in the name of peace, freedom and democracy.”