From down-sized ceremonies at the Roseburg VA National Cemetery Annex and Glide Veteran’s Memorial to a flyover salute to COVID-19 front-line workers by the Oregon Air National Guard, Douglas County turned out to celebrate Memorial Day on Monday.
In anticipation of a flyover by four F-15 Eagles, people filled the parking lot of the former Kmart store in Roseburg. Children positioned themselves on the hoods of vehicles and more than one American flag was visible.
A handful of employees from CHI Mercy Medical Center stood outside the front doors of the hospital to watch the flyover designed to honor them and other health care workers and first responders across Oregon.
Shortly after 11 a.m., somebody shouted, “Here they come.”
The F-15 Eagles emerged from the south, flying approximately 2,000 feet above the ground at an airspeed of 400 mph. After passing over the CHI Mercy Medical Center, the jets continued north where they were scheduled to reach Cottage Grove eight minutes later. In a little more than an hour, the jets were able to visit 13 locations in Oregon, including the Roseburg VA Medical Center campus.
Although federal regulations barred the traditional public wreath laying ceremony at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex on Monday, a small group of local veterans was permitted to make a private tribute.
On Monday morning, the Douglas County Veterans Forum held a small ceremony with forum President Larry Hill.
An opening prayer was given by a member of the Roseburg VA Chaplaincy Service and Roseburg National Cemetery Supervisor Daniel Carver conducted the wreath laying.
The Vietnam Veterans of America held an honor guard rifle salute and playing of taps, and John Pierson of Military Honors by the Pipes recited “In Flanders Field.”
The ceremony concluded with bagpipe music.
Hill said about 10 people were present at the ceremony. He said originally Carver was scheduled to lay a wreath alone, but the forum members were able to obtain approval from the cemetery administration.
Hill said it was his honor to have helped devise a proper service, keep it limited and still provide the ritual to make it a true Memorial Day service.
“My emotions ran the gamut from grief to joy knowing what had transpired and the fact that they joined their comrades in Post Everlasting,” he said. “I feel grateful that I was able to fulfill my obligation to those who have gone on ahead. It is not a duty, for me it is an act of love and respect.”
At the Glide Veteran’s Memorial, about 50 people turned out for a Memorial Day ceremony open to the public Monday morning.
It was a short ceremony with two Army cadets and an Iraq War veteran placing the flags at the memorial located next to the Glide Community Center.
Highly decorated Vietnam veteran Mike Armstrong was the emcee for the event and helped organize it. His son Matthew Armstrong is an Army combat veteran who served in Iraq from 2005-06.
Heidi Wood played the bagpipes and Tony D’Agnese played patriotic music on the trumpet.
Several veterans and some current members of the military participated in the event.
“For a small-town gathering on a Memorial Day to remember our fallen, it doesn’t get any more meaningful than that,” Mike Armstrong said.
Matthew Armstrong, came from Monterey, California, to help with the event, since his business has been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This holiday has become more important to me having understood my dad’s service and the people he served with,” Matthew Armstrong said. “I’m glad to be here to remember those people who gave the ultimate sacrifice and never came back home from the conflicts they were in.”
Jacob Thompson, who just graduated from the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point, is a Glide High School graduate and celebrated Memorial Day at home.
“It was awesome, well done, it’s much bigger turnout than I expected with the whole pandemic thing,” Thompson said.
Rhett Syverson never got to actually finish his first year at West Point and ended up at home so he took advantage to attend the Memorial Day ceremony in Glide.
“I’m supposed to be at West Point, but the virus has kept us all home since spring break,” Syverson said. “It’s very nice ceremony, but I never expected to get this opportunity, so it’s a very unique opportunity for me.”