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Memorial Day event to celebrate new monument paying tribute to veterans, first responders

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - LOVM board members John Hanan (left) President Bob Hill (left-center) Secretary Karen Stewart (center) and Mike Holm (right) inspect the finished product at Foothills Park ahead of the ribbon-cutting event on May 27.

The moment has finally come for the Lake Oswego Veterans and First Responders Memorial to be unveiled to the public in a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony that will take place on Memorial Day Monday, May 27 beginning at 11 a.m. in Foothills Park.

The Lake Oswego Veterans Memorial group has worked tirelessly for the past three years to get this point, and its efforts have been rewarded with an immaculate tribute to those who have died in the line of duty, and those who served who are no longer with us.

The memorial sits in the southwest corner of Foothills park. It is made up of three 3,500 pound granite slabs standing about eight feet tall with engravings for the insignia of each of the three branches of the U.S. Military — Army, Navy and Air Force — as well as the Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Two smaller granite pieces flank the larger memorial wall with inscriptions honoring both police and fire. Flags bearing each of the six insignias fly behind the wall, with the Prisoner of War flag resting just below a large American flag that flies high above the entire memorial.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - LOVM board member Mike Holm removes a cover on the firefighters memorial that flanks the larger memorial wall in Foothills Park last month as construction neared completion.

Also, the site will include an honor wall and benches dedicated to individual veterans. 24 names will be initially placed on the honor wall and each name engravement costs $100. The LOVM has a scholarship program for veterans and families who can't afford the cost.

This monument honors more than just those whose service paid for our freedom. It's also an homage to the families — the wives and husbands, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers — who have made sacrifices which cannot be repaid.

That's a sentiment which Taya Kyle, keynote speaker for the Memorial Day ceremony, is familiar with. Kyle is not only the daughter of Lake Oswego Mayor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kent Studebaker, but also the wife of the late Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle.

Kyle understands better than most the definition of sacrifice. It's a word that's come to define many aspects of her life, and in everything she does, from her personal life to professional work as a public speaker, she strives to make sure that the people of this nation understand what the sacrifice represents.

COURTESY PHOTO CHRIS KYLE FROG FOUNDATION  - TAYA KYLE

"The saying I've heard is that 'our soldiers are at war, America is at the mall,'" Kyle told The Review. "I think when you see memorials like (Lake Oswego's), where people are using their hard earned dollars to put up a memorial, it reminds warriors and their families that while it seems like nobody is paying attention sometimes, that the real people in the real world are paying attention. They do remember. They do care."

As a public speaker and executive director of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Kyle uses her platform to spread a message of hope for those who have served and are dealing with emotional baggage of that service, as well as for the families of those men and women.

"At Chris Kyle Frog Foundation our mission is to honor god, country and family. We do that by taking care of the marriages," Kylesaid. "We know that if the marriages are intact, we cut down suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism. We keep the family together and help the next generation by letting those kids know that when the marriage hits hard times, they don't just survive it, they can thrive in it."

According to Kyle, offering help through small acts of kindness is the biggest thing you can do to show support for the family who is dealing with the deployment of a loved one or loss.

Mowing their lawn, buying them a cup of coffee, offering to babysit the kids — it's these acts that matter to those whose lives have been upended.

She remembers after losing her husband in 2013, an anonymous person would come leave little American flags in her yard on patriotic holidays. While it's a small act, that meant the world to her.

"The thing here is you can't just ask if they need help. They're used to being independent and not relying on other people," Kyle said. "You have to take the initiative."

Being asked to present the keynote speech at the Memorial Day ribbon-cutting event is an exciting opportunity for Kyle not only because her father is the mayor of Lake Oswego, but also because her grandparents resided in Lake Oswego while she was growing up in Gladstone and often visited and spent summers swimming in Oswego Lake.

PMG FILE PHOTO - KENT STUDEBAKER

She's extremely proud of what her father has accomplished as mayor over the past several years, but she's moved by the commitment he's made to supporting the LOVM group in their endeavor to bring this memorial to fruition.

"I think that there's a humble nature to (my dad), and that's coupled with a deep understanding of what service requires of people," she said. "He also has a big heart, and he knows that sacrifice doesn't go away once you get a to a healthy place after grieving someone's loss. That loss is felt forever, and it ripples through generations."

PMG FILE PHOTO - CAPTAIN JONATHAN PUSKAS

The memorial unveiling event will also include a remarks from LO resident and U.S. Navy Reserve Commander Captain Jonathan Puskas, who will serve as master of ceremonies, as well as a flyover by the West Coast Ravens. Gold Star Wives of America, a national organization that supports family members of those who lost their lives serving in the military, will present a wreath in honor of gold star families and a former ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 11:45 a.m.

For more information on the Lake Oswego Veterans and First Responders Memorial visit loveteransmemorial.org.

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