Monday, May 26, 2008

Clark County Pays Tribute to Veterans

A crowd of some 500 gathered today to pay homage and respect to Veterans and add ten names of Clark County residents who sacrificed their lives in the War on Terror at the Clark County War Memorial, located at Historic Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington.

Ceremonies kicked off at 11 AM with welcoming remarks by Colonel Daniel York followed by the posting of the colors, playing of the National Anthem, recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Invocation, given by Chaplain, Colonel Kerry Haynes.

Members of the Evergreen High School Choir, located in Clark County, Washington, sang our National Anthem.

Representative Brain Baird, Democrat from Washington’s 3rd District, was introduced and gave a short but stirring talk on what we Americans owe our Veterans who selflessly give of themselves, especially those who pay the Ultimate Sacrifice. “Our (service members) make us proud every day. They are the finest America has to offer,” Congressman Baird said.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Royce Pollard, a retired Commander of Vancouver Barracks, gave an impassioned talk honoring Veterans, pausing several times to collect himself. Pollard reminded those in attendance, “Our military serves us so that we can be free.”

He went to say, “That’s what Americans do. We must never forget those names etched in granite are real people who sacrificed their lives,” as he contrasted suicide bombers to 19 year-old Ross McGinnis, who sacrificed his own life by throwing himself on a grenade, instead of jumping to safety from his machine gun atop his Humvee.

Spc. McGinnis will be Posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for Valor for his selfless act in saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Brigadier General Eldon Regua gave one of the most stirring talks of the day as he recited a poem written by 7 year-old Caleb Howard, son of Sgt. Bryce D. Howard who gave his life in Afghanistan, August 28, 2007. Caleb stood alongside General Regua as the General read his Poem, My Dad, My Hero, to a quiet audience. All in attendance rewarded Caleb’s efforts with a Standing Ovation.

The 104th Division Band played a medley of the Armed Services Anthems as Veterans of each Branch was asked to stand to be honored.

The Band also very softly played “America, The Beautiful” as family members came forward to lay wreaths of the ten names being added to the Memorial, each escorted by an Honor Guard from their Branch of Service.

Mayor Pollard, Congressman Baird and General Regua laid a floral wreath honoring Clark County’s fallen Heroes from previous wars.

Major General Garry Dean, recently assigned to the Pentagon, honored us with an unscheduled visit. General Dean, whose children will be graduating local schools this year, credited his daughter with letting him know today’s Ceremonies were being held so he could attend.

Following a Rifle Volley by the Southwest Washington Veterans Honor Guard, the playing of taps by a lone member of the 104th Division band and the Vancouver Pipe Bands recitation of Amazing Grace on the Bagpipes, the Ceremony was closed with a tribute by Colonel York and Benediction by Colonel Haynes.

A large turn out was present by the Patriot Guard Riders, who circled the event, each holding an American Flag honoring fallen Heroes.

Solemnly, many of the audience moved towards the Memorial to view the names etched and the wreaths as the audience dispersed.

Leaving the area with my wife, I had the honor of stopping to briefly talk to Congressman Baird and thank him for the support he has shown our Troops and the successful completion of their mission.

Congressman Baird went on to thank me for my time in the Army and Viet Nam.

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