Every Memorial Day in Gresham about a hundred community members of all ages come together to remember and honor the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of others.
It is an emotional gathering, with community leaders giving speeches and families thinking of their lost loved ones.
And while this year the crowds were unable to gather and the speeches were suspended because of safety concerns around the pandemic, local veterans still put on a trio of private events throughout the community to honor their fallen comrades.
"This ceremony is for all who have died for this country," said Thomas Bennett, acting commander of Gresham VFW Post 180 and Navy veteran. "This is a poignant gathering for all of us. We only get the chance to do this twice a year."
At 11 a.m. Monday, May 25, members of the Gresham VFW, American Legion Post 30, Gresham Police Department and Gresham Fire & Emergency Services met at the Gresham Heroes Memorial, corner of East Powell Boulevard and Southeast Roberts Avenue.
While maintaining proper distance, veterans placed wreaths at pillars representing each branch of the military — Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Wreaths were placed for the fire and police department, another for those still serving around the world, and a final wreath was placed at the center of the memorial to honor those who have remained at their posts during an unprecedented crisis — from medical professionals to grocery store employees.
"With everything going on today, its enlightening to see who the true heroes are," Bennett said. "This is a time to contemplate what is valuable in our lives."
Earlier in the day the Gresham VFW set up flags along Main Avenue in downtown Gresham to help spread awareness of what Memorial Day truly stands for. A small group also visited the Forest Lawn Cemetery for an annual ceremony Monday morning, where Bennett gave a short speech in remembrance of fallen friends. They saluted the flag and placed flowers, wreaths and other sentimental items at the grave of a veteran.
"There is no freedom without bravery," said Gresham VFW Commander David Lowe. "Our nation is lucky to have generations with people who have decided our country is worth fighting for — and dying for."
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