A colorful and patriotic Memorial Day ceremony held at the Veterans National Cemetery Annex at the Roseburg VA Medical Center campus Monday honored United States veterans who gave their lives for their country.
More than 200 people attended the annual event to hear speakers, witness a fly-over by two F-15 Eagle fighter jets and experience other customary tributes to honor those who served.
Speakers noted casualties from the Revolutionary War to recent conflicts in the Middle East. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard from Post No. 2468 performed a three-rifle volley followed by taps played by bugler Roger Arnold.
Cloud cover threatened to diminish the annual fly-over of two F-15 Eagle fighter jets from the 173rd Fighter Wing out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls — one of nine sites treated to flyovers across the state Monday. But less than 10 minutes ahead of schedule the jets could be seen flying to the west of the event in Roseburg. Both pilots looped around before making a pass over the event at approximately 1,000 feet above the ground and 400 mph.
Veterans, including Steve Rolston, said it is important to keep the memory alive for those who gave all in serving their nation.
“It’s definitely a day to remember the veterans that have already fallen, and it’s real important in my mind that we continue to do that,” said Rolston, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 805.
“You think back, especially your friends and soldiers that we served with that are no longer here. We all paid the price, but they and their families paid the ultimate price,” said Mel Cheney, also a Vietnam veteran.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said the soil of the VA grounds was bought with the blood of our country’s veterans.
“A saying in veteran groups and by veterans is sacrifice without remembrance is meaningless,” Freeman said.
State Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, told the crowd that Memorial Day is an opportunity to pause and remember the millions who served and died so we could celebrate freedom.
“But while we remember their sacrifice, it’s also time that we take a stand that their sacrifice was not in vain, but rather represents our commitment to continue to fight for liberty and justice for all, “ Leif said.
Leif was forced to pause his speech when Conner Doppelmayr, a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets standing at attention next to a ceremonial wreath, fell backward against the wall during an apparent fainting spell. Doppelmayr was transported while sitting up in a stretcher to CHI Mercy Medical Center.
Ryan Baker, associate director of the Roseburg VA, read a proclamation from President Donald Trump proclaiming Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace.
“As a free people we have the sacred duty to remember that the courageous warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that our great country would endure. It is our responsibility that we strive to ensure that their noble actions and dedication to our country and the cause of freedom will not be in vain,” Baker read.
Cynthia Brewer, a former medic in the Air Force said she wanted to show her appreciation for the sacrifices that were made by veterans in the country’s history.
“I’m just very patriotic and I love this nation, and I’m so thankful for the people that have gone before me and have not come back, and today it’s just a special day for me,” said Brewer, who served in the U.S. Air Force in 1998-2002.
Bagpipers John Pierson and Heidi Wood performed “Amazing Grace.” Pierson said he put the kilts away to wear the uniform that he and his fellow airmen wore when they flew together. Pierson said all 10 of them had died in the line of duty and Memorial Day has always very emotional for him.
“Over a period of 25 years, 10 guys that I flew with were killed in the line of duty,” Pierson said.
For 92-year-old World War II veteran Blake Duncan, who served in the Philippines, he was there to honor the memory of those that he fought alongside that died for their country.
“It means a lot to me, a lot of men didn’t make it home,” Duncan said.
Corporate sponsorship was on the agenda for the May 22 Roseburg Public Schools board of directors meeting, but the conversation quickly turned to equity in schools.
The current policy states that advertising is not allowed in the classroom or within the learning environment, and where it is allowed it should be tasteful and subtle without the use of product logos.
However, board chairman Joe Garcia pointed out Roseburg High is one of the only Class 6A schools without sponsorship.
“I know we’re in Douglas County, but we can’t be that far behind the times,” Garcia said. “We allow a local media entity to record our games and put them online and they receive advertising funds from businesses and generate profit from that. We don’t necessarily see that returned back to our school, especially when we try to do levies and we lack support, which is unfortunate. There are people who are making money off our system and our kids.”
School clubs and parent groups also raise funds and sometimes get money in return for printing logos on team posters, which help fund those activities and equipment.
Garcia’s question to the rest of the board was to determine what the district’s responsibility is, how they would deal with inequity and how to manage money they could get in donations.
Director Charles Lee pointed out that it would not just be corporate sponsorship, but all business sponsorship. He added, “I like things the way they are.”
Director Rodney Cotton said his stance on the subject had changed over the years and he felt the district is “allowing thousands of dollars to slip through our hands.”
Director Steve Patterson suggested looking at other district’s policies and figure out a way to do it tactfully. Director Howard Johnson agreed, saying, “I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel.”
Johnson noted that certain sponsorships could be good for programs such as automotive and welding, but there could be some concern about the verbiage used by companies.
Johnson also said the district would be liable for the cost to take sponsors’ names down after their contract with the district ended. Cotton suggested digital advertising boards could be updated more easily.
The conversation also turned to booster clubs and parent clubs, which are trying to raise money to update equipment at the schools.
“There is such a disparity in the amount of money that some buildings can raise and the types of services they can provide with that money they raise,” Garcia said. “If we’re building a playground that is the latest and greatest playground at one elementary school and that latest and greatest playground isn’t at all of our elementary schools and there is no plan to get that latest and greatest at all of our elementary schools, that doesn’t seem right, that doesn’t seem fair to kids. Especially to some of the areas that cannot generate the kind of revenue that can take on those types of projects.”
The school district also has to pay to maintain the projects brought to the school by boosters, but the board does not always deem the projects as the most valuable to the school.
Cotton said, “It’s not fair for those folks to have such great organizations that raise money. It’s not fair, it’s not fair to the students or parents if we’re not allowing them to put nice playgrounds in because we have another school that doesn’t have, or for whatever reason cannot raise the funds.”
Garcia said not every building has people with the skill set, ability and connections to raise money. “In some buildings you struggle to get them to engage in their child’s education, let alone get them out in the community to fundraise,” he said.
Green Elementary School Principal Amy-Jo Rodriguez said raising funds through the booster club at her school includes a lot of small donations, but there are no large donors or sponsors because of a lack of connections.
“We’re willing to work hard, we just don’t have the connections as a community,” Rodriguez said. “They don’t have the connections to raise the amount of money that other schools are raising which is leading to technology in classrooms, curriculum in classrooms that we don’t have. It’s not just a nicer playground, it’s about instructional material that schools don’t have access to, which is creating an academic inequity. Not only social and emotional but academically.”
A disparity between parents and neighborhoods was pointed out by Eastwood Elementary School Principal Jennifer Thompson, who said many parents don’t have money available to support the schools via programs like Scripp.
RPS interim Superintendent Lee Paterson said: “Truth be told, those things that are sold in a community, from pepperoni to calendars, are sold to the parents and grandparents of the kids that go to that school. Their affluence has everything to do with the outcome of the project. And it is a fact that all of these schools are not created equal, but somehow it is our responsibility that the kids have equal opportunity.”
Garcia noted there are districts that ask parent groups to donate a portion of their funds raised to a general pot that would benefit other schools in the district.
Paterson said he appreciated the board looking into loosening the very tight policies that have “stiff-armed people who want to give us money.”
Directors Micki Hall and Rebecca Larson were excused from last week’s meeting. A suggested change in policy will be brought back to the board for consideration at a future board meeting.
State and local agencies are continuing to investigate a diesel fuel spill that leaked into the Myrtle Creek drinking water system Monday morning.
By Tuesday morning, water customers are being advised not to use water for any purpose until further notice.
The precise cause of the spill is not yet known. Myrtle Creek Mayor Matt Hald said the spill appeared to occur on Springbrook Road.
The city shut off the Springbrook Water Treatment Plant at 10 a.m. Monday after residents reported a gasoline smell in their water. The South Umpqua Water Treatment Plant, the city’s secondary water source, was activated about 10:30 a.m. and the city began flushing the distribution system.
City officials expected Umpqua Research Company to complete an analysis of water samples throughout the system by noon Tuesday. The company is analyzing the water for organic compounds contained in fuel.
Public Works Director Quinn Pickering was at the water treatment plant and unavailable for comment Tuesday morning.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is working to contain and clean the water system. DEQ officials met with officials from the city and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday morning, according to DEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati.
They planned to take initial abatement measures including covering the spill area and placing absorbent materials in the water to keep the water from moving down stream, Benenati said. DEQ expected to finish excavating contaminated soil at the spill site Tuesday.
Residents who might have consumed or been exposed to the water should contact their doctor immediately and mention the water issue if they experience any negative health effects, said Oregon Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie.
Hald said the city is lucky to have a secondary drinking water system.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of diesel to contaminate something like that,” Hald said.
City Recorder Josh Norton said the city would provide an update as soon as one is available.