Hundreds gather in Lake Oswego's Foothills Park to honor fallen veterans and first responders on Memorial Day

Mayor Kent Studebaker had a surprise Monday for organizers of Lake Oswego's Memorial Day celebration.

The City will kick in $50,000 in tourism dollars toward a long-planned memorial for veterans and first responders in Foothills Park, Studebaker said — enough for the project to break ground soon and hopefully be completed in time for Veterans Day.

Studebaker's announcement, which came with most of the City Council at his side, was one of several high points in a tribute that drew several hundred people to the park. The event was organized by the nonprofit Lake Oswego Veterans Memorial in partnership with the City and other organizations.

There were lighthearted moments: Elvis impersonator Rod Shearer and the Kopy Katz provided the musical entertainment, and visitors were able to clamber over a World War II-era PT boat and admire the Lake Oswego Fire Department's new rescue equipment.

But the somber meaning of the day was evident, too. Lake Oswego Police Capt. Dale Jorgensen, who will become the department's chief on July 1, talked about the reality of celebrating his first Memorial Day without his father, a veteran who recently passed away. And a flag that once covered the casket of Councilor John LaMotte's father flew over the gathering.

Capt. Jonathan Puskas of the U.S. Navy Reserve led the crowd in a moment of silence to honor those who lost their lives in service to their country, and Steve Blakley played "Taps" to close the ceremony. There was an emotional tribute to priosners of war and those still missing in action, and the West Coast Ravens flew over the park in a missing-man formation.

In between, retired Air Force Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak recounted the country's history of involvement in wars and reminded the crowd that the soon-to-be-built granite monument in Foothills Park was "not a war memorial, but a tribute to those we ask to fight our wars."

Assistant Fire Chief David Morris echoed McPeak's thoughts, offering a "special thank you to the brave men and women we solemnly pay our respects to this Memorial Day."

"Because of their courage, devotion, discipline, sacrifice and loyalty," Morris said, "our way of life has been preserved."

— The Review

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