Veterans set to be honored in Forest Grove - but how?
Of Forest Grove's nearly 25,000 residents, almost 2,000 are military veterans.
Considering that, longtime Grover and U.S. Army veteran Michael Perrault thinks it is about time the city had a place to commemorate those who have served their country.
Perrault — who formerly served on Forest Grove's Committee for Community Involvement — has been working with City Councilors Tim Rippe and Kristy Kottkey on the idea. The question now is: what to do and where to do it?
To answer those questions, Perrault and the councilors have put together a survey to gather input from community members as to what they may want to do.
Perrault has looked closely at what neighboring cities have done in recent years, including North Plains, which this past November unveiled its Veterans Memorial Park.
North Plains' park is located on the corner of Northwest Highland Court and 313th Avenue. It features a 100-foot flagpole with a 50-by-30-foot flag — rivaling the "big flag" that greets visitors to Forest Grove along Highway 8 — as well as commemorative plaques honoring veterans, branches of the military and POWs, and an American Legion flag disposal box, along with park amenities like benches, an electric vehicle charging station, and a bike rack and repair station.
Perrault's survey suggests ideas for Forest Grove that include a dedicated park, a public memorial, community service opportunities, efforts to connect veterans to services, and/or organized events such as parades, concerts or picnics.
But really, anything's on the table.
"We talked about not wanting it to be a 'memorial,' because that's just honoring the dead, and we want it to be more than that," Perrault said. "But it's not really about what we want, it's about what everyone in this community wants. So hopefully, if we get the ideas, then people won't feel like it's being forced down their throats."
Rippe, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and West Point graduate, said he believes veterans "absolutely" should be honored and recognized, but he noted that how groups have done so has changed over the years.
The city councilor cited parades, memorials, assemblies and varying ceremonies as means of the past, but he added that it's not necessarily the "how" or the "what" that concerns him, but rather the "why."
"Veterans have sacrificed a part of their lives in service to country," Rippe said. "Their families have also directly or indirectly participated in or been impacted by that sacrifice and service. It is this sacrifice of both veteran and family that I would hope the community recognizes and honors.
"Whether it was for a few years of enlistment or for an entire career, veterans were committed to something much larger than themselves. This was an important lesson and motivation for most of us who served."
Rippe didn't see combat during his military career, but he has many friends and family members who did. Through them, he's seen wounds and scars, along with how those wounds and scars impacted them and those around them.
That's why he feels strongly about honoring veterans, he said, and why he hopes the people of Forest Grove will offer their input via this survey.
"I ask that as many Forest Grove residents as possible please respond to this survey and give this group the input sought on how our community can acknowledge, recognize and honor our veterans," Rippe said.
If you live in Forest Grove and are interested in participating in the survey, you can find the English version at tinyurl.com/FGvetssurvey or the Spanish version at tinyurl.com/Spanish-Version-Vets-Survey.
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