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Monday is a day of honor and remembrance

On May 25, veterans, public officials and citizens will come together at sites around Washington County to honor those who gave their lives while serving in the military. There will be somber remembrances at cemeteries around the area, including at the Verboort Cemetery and the Banks Union Point Cemetery.

In Hillsboro, a public Memorial Day ceremony will be held at the Veterans Memorial Gateway at the Washington County Fair Complex. At the fairgrounds event, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey — who served in the Navy and is a Vietnam War veteran — will serve as host of the ceremony, and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett will be the keynote speaker.

In remarks made at a previous Memorial Day remembrance, Willey said it is important to pay tribute to the intense sacrifices made by America’s veterans.

“For them, freedom was definitely not free,” Willey said.

Indeed, Memorial Day is always an emotional, reverent time, and remembrances like the ones in Washington County are planned all around the nation.

Many county residents come from military families. Most of us had sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, fathers or mothers who served in hostile territory and came home safely. Too many, however, lost a family member in the line of duty. Yet either way, all of us are keenly aware of the importance of this holiday.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici recently pointed out that all of us need to honor the families who have lost loved ones in war.

“Parents lost children. Children lost parents,” Bonamici noted in a previous Memorial Day address in Hillsboro. “Those families understand the real cost of freedom, and they are in need of our love and support.”

The history books tell us that Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868. Back then, it was called “Decoration Day,” which was originally intended as a time to place flowers on the graves of soldiers who served in the Civil War — Union and Confederate alike. In 1971, the name was formally changed to Memorial Day, and it was designated as a federal holiday that would be observed on the last Monday in May.

In contemporary times, Memorial Day has been set aside as a time to remember all those who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. In addition to flowers, American flags are placed on the gravesites of veterans to recognize and pay homage to their service.

Washington County has honored its heroes and endured its share of grief in recent months. In 2011, Forest Grove High School graduate, Cornelius resident and Navy hospital corpsman Ryley Gallinger-Long lost his life while on active duty in Afghanistan. And just last year, the name of U.S. Army Spc. John A. Pelham, a county resident, was added to the black granite memorial wall at Veterans Memorial Park in Cornelius. Pelham lost his life Feb. 12, 2014, while serving in Afghanistan.

On gravestones, memorial walls and commemorative bricks at memorials around the area, the names of those who have been lost remind us of the cost of freedom. As honor guards comprised of members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars offer a final roll call and fire a 21-gun salute — and as a solitary bugler plays “Taps” — we are reminded once again of the solemn sacrifice made by so many on our behalf.

This Memorial Day and always, we must never forget.

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