Annual event is held at Crescent Grove Cemetery
Sacrifice was the theme of the Memorial Day ceremony Monday hosted by Tigard American Legion Post 158 at Crescent Grove Cemetery on Greenburg Road in Tigard.
More than 1.3 million Americans have died in all the wars from the American Revolutionary War through Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, said Tigard City Councilor Marc Woodard, an Air Force veteran, in his keynote speech.
Woodard publicly thanked members of Post 158, who every year place American flags along Main and Burnham streets, and he recalled the history of Memorial Day, noting that it was started after the Civil War to honor all the fallen Union and Confederate soldiers and was first called Decoration Day.
After World War I, the celebration, held on the last Monday in May, was expanded to honor all those who have died in American wars, and Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday in 1971.
"A flag stands for so much more than identifying a country on a map," Woodard said. "Veterans' stories represent the best of us," and he added that the children of fallen warriors will miss their parents, and spouses will miss their life partners for the rest of their lives.
"Freedom isn't free and should not be taken for granted," Woodard added. "Memorial Day is a day to remember. That's why we're here. God bless America, and God bless our fallen heroes."
Alan Orr, who is Tigard's police chief and served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, recalled his service and encountering some terrifying situations as well as humorous ones, even in the heat of battle.
As a radio telephone operator, Orr said he had a big target on his back anyway, but just as a firefight with the Vietcong broke out in the Mekong Delta, he was attacked by biting ants that had come down from a tree, probably when it was struck by his antenna.
Orr found himself trying to fight off the ants while also dodging bullets, and when the firefight ended, "my comrades picked me up and threw me into a rice paddy, for which I'm grateful," he said.
Memorial Day provides an opportunity "to praise and remember those who served," Orr said, noting that troops face a huge loss "when your comrades-in-arms die in front of you."
Orr said for the past few years, he has been meeting with World War II veterans "who are experiencing difficulties, but I think they've helped me more than I've helped them," he said. "I'm still recovering."
The May 26 ceremony also included three Tigard High School choir members - Liz Irving, Amanda Uhl and Hannah Fullmer - singing the national anthem, a moment of silence for departed veterans of all wars, the presentation of a wreath by Caitlin Nickless, a reading of "The Poppy of Remembrance" from "In Flanders Field" by Unit 158 President Joanne Harris, and a reading of the "Meaning of the Poppy" by Brenda Sherlock.
The Post 158 color guard and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue pipe band posted the colors and retired the colors at the beginning and end of the ceremony and were preceded by American Legion Riders on motorcycles.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Post 158 color guard fired a three-volley rifle salute, and bugler Kent Erickson played "Taps."
Post 158 Commander Bob Sullivan conducted the ceremony, and post Chaplain Hank Hess led the invocation and benediction.