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.