Memorial Day means different things to different people. Over the years, it has often signaled the unofficial start of the summer season for vacations, shopping and recreation.
Particularly this year, as the first holiday in more than a year in which restrictions are loosening, many in-person events are returning and the outdoor mask mandate is no longer in effect, it represents the hopeful message that the months-long pandemic is drawing to a close.
But, in an informal social media survey by The Canby Current, many residents chose to reflect on the deeper meaning and significance of the annual observance.
“Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have died for our country,” said James Hieb, a post-9/11 Marine veteran. “I tell stories to my children about the Marines that I knew who fell in combat. I tell my children about the men they were and the price they paid. By telling their stories, a part of them lives forever.”
Other veterans also had specific memories of fellow service members — friends, brothers and sisters in arms — whom they lost in combat.
“I remember my good friend and short-time roommate during flight school at Fort Rucker: Adrian Stump and the men in his crew, who were shot down and killed in Afghanistan,” said Scott Anderson, a 22-year veteran Army pilot and medic who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He was 23, and from Pendleton. I was proud to serve as a medical evacuation pilot and as a flight medic on a helicopter before that, though this weekend proves to become more somber and difficult each passing year.”
“For me, it is to honor the brave men and women who served our country and gave all, their lives,” Aaryn HP said of Memorial Day. “While I honor all who serve; I recognize that those who came home are to be remembered on Veterans’ Day. It is good to set aside time to think on and remember our history, those we’ve lost and their families who also sacrificed in service.”
Karen Shimer said she remembers the late George Pittelkau, who served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force in Korea, Vietnam and around the world. He was a longtime member of local veterans’ groups, including the committee that established the Vietnam Era Veterans Memorial on Highway 99E, until his passing in September 2011 at age 82.
“George worked so tirelessly to create this memorial in Canby,” Shimer said. “George had a great sense of humor and a deep love for life.”
“We usually make our rounds to all the cemeteries where our families are buried,” Helen Kruse said. “My mantle has pictures of those who have served and are gone now with small flags of all the armed services, the American flag and our state flag. It is a reminder that freedom isn’t free.”
Cindy Jeffrey Snyder said she remembers her father, a 20-year Navy man who passed away four years ago — on Memorial Day.
“For me, it was quite appropriate,” she said.
“Grateful!” Elizabeth Ream said of how Memorial Day makes her feel. “I am so thankful to all the men and women who fought for our freedom in this country — going all the way back to the time of George Washington. It brings tears to my eyes.”
Danelle Chase said she remembers her uncle, who served a second tour in Vietnam in her father’s stead — and died in the line of duty.
“I never met him,” she said. “I also remember other relatives and friends who have served, but did not die in battle. We visit cemeteries and lay flowers.”
Dree Warren has a similar ritual.
“Every year, we would go to the cemetery with our grandma and clean the headstone of her mom, grandma, grandpa, daughter who died at age 4, and her late husband who we all never met,” she recalled. “He served. We would all lay flowers. Now that she has passed, my sibling and I carry that tradition. We listen to and sing patriotic songs and think of all our service personnel.”
Local cemeteries throughout the Canby area were spruced up for the Memorial Day remembrance this year, including Zion Memorial, which hosted a ceremony Monday morning organized by the American Legion.
Mayor Brian Hodson, who spoke at the event, recalled traveling to Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, on Memorial Day several years ago with his grandfather, a military veteran.
“As we drove the roadways through the cemetery, I was moved to a different level of appreciation of what I have because of the men and women who fought for what freedoms I have,” he said. “Row upon row of flags lined the headstones. Many of them were adorned with flowers and other signs of remembrance much like we see here today.
“Neatly and meticulously placed, they all celebrated life, said that ‘We do not forget you,’ ‘We love you’ and ‘Thank you.'”
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