Lake Oswego family pays tribute to fallen soldier along procession

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Sam Corey of Bethany, left, helps Scott Thompson of Lake Oswego place American flags along Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in front of the McCormick & Schmick's restaurant for the funeral procession of U.S. Army Spc. John A. Pelham. Thompson read Pelham's story in the newspaper and wanted to help support the family by placing American flags along the procession route.When Scott Thompson learned the route that Spc. John Alexander Pelham’s funeral procession would take, he knew where he — and his array of American flags — had to be on Monday morning.

With the help of his wife, Tanya, and children, Jack, 11, and Jane, 9, the Lake Oswego resident packed up his hulking U.S. Army surplus truck and headed for the corner of Southwest 99th Avenue and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

The family set up large flags along the busy intersection as a show of respect to the Pelham family as members left the memorial service for John Alex at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4195 S.W. 99th Ave. (See main story on page A1 and community effort story on B1).

Nearly 1,000 relatives, friends, military veterans and community members turned out for the 90-minute service honoring Pelham, a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier killed in action on Feb. 12 in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan. The 2010 Sunset High School graduate was killed by enemy gunfire while serving his second “Operation Enduring Freedom” tour of duty with the 2nd Batallion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).

While not a veteran himself, Thompson makes a point of supporting others who serve and sometimes sacrifice their lives for their country’s security.

“I’ve always been a strong supporter of the military,” he said on Monday afternoon while packing up his flags. “I read in the paper about Mr. Pelham and was wondering what I could do. I thought I’d load up the flags and set ’em up.”

Realizing the funeral procession would round the corner near where dozens had lined up along Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway to pay respects to Pelham, Thompson wanted to show the family how much their sacrifice means to the larger community.

“I knew they had to slow down at the curve,” he said. “It’s a little thing I can do to show my appreciation for those who have given their lives.”

Jack and Jane, who took a few hours from school to participate, were happy to help.

“They’re always on board for this type of stuff,” Tanya Thompson said.

The gesture did not go unnoticed by the Pelhams and the serpentine procession that followed them on the way to Willamette National Cemetery in Southeast Portland, where John Alexander was buried with full military honors on Monday afternoon.

“It was well received,” Scott Thompson said. “We got a thumbs up.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tanya Thompson of Lake Oswego and her daughter, Jane, 9, hold a sign for U.S. Army Spc. John Alexander Pelham before a funeral procession at the corner of 99th Avenue and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

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