PORT ANGELES — A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 packed the Clallam County Veterans Center Monday for a solemn and ceremonious Memorial Day service.
The half-hour service was sponsored by the Clallam County Veterans Association. It featured members of the American Legion Riders of Post 29, an Honor Guard from the Mount Olympus Detachment of the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1024 and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 9.
“We gather here today to remember our dead,” said Dale Koelling, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1024 adjutant. “Some of you remember a relative or a neighbor. Some of us remember people that served with us who have not returned.”
Memorial Day originally was held May 30 every year. It was moved to the last Monday in May in 1968, Koelling said.
This year, the national holiday happened to fall on its original date.
The service featured a color guard presentation by members of the Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, a rifle salute by the Marine Corps League Honor Guard Mount Olympus Detachment and the placing of eight wreaths by representatives of various veterans groups.
“Lots of different groups were represented here today,” said Gene Richardson, a Vietnam-era veteran who recently moved to Port Angeles from Durango, Colo.
City of Port Angeles Executive Communications Coordinator Teresa Pierce sang “ The Star Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace” during the service.
“The service men and women that we honor today are of every race, creed and color,” Koelling said. “They’re from every part of our country, and they include volunteers who came here from foreign countries to join the United States military and serve in our armed forces.
“Together, they defend and protect the cause of freedom.”
Koelling quoted Gen. Colin Powell, who once said: “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last 100 years and put wonderful young men and women at risk. Many of them have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.”
Koelling described a “new generation of patriots” who are fighting against terrorism in tumultuous times.
He encouraged the audience members to preserve the memory of all veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in war.
“Though we can’t fully comprehend the sorrow that these friends and families are experiencing today, we can, and we must, carry that memory always and pass many a Memorial Day on to our children and our grandchildren,” Koelling said.
Members of American Legion Riders Post 29 folded the flag 13 times, with each fold representing a certain aspect of service, God or country.
Marines Corps League Honor Guard Mount Olympus Detachment bugler Dan Abbott played taps after the three-shot rifle salute.
Local Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups decorated grave sites at Ocean View Cemetery as part of Memorial Day activities, Koelling said.
VFW Post 1024 Chaplain Thomas McKeown delivered the invocation and benediction.
Refreshments were provided by VFW 1024 Ladies Auxiliary.
Other Memorial Day services were held Monday in Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Sequim, Forks, Joyce, Gardiner, Brinnon, Port Ludlow and Chimacum.
________Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]