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Greatest generation to be honored at Oregon WWII Memorial dedication

Thousands are expected at June 6 dedication ceremony on Capitol grounds in Salem


This Friday, June 6, marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Fittingly, it will be the day that Oregon’s veterans will receive a long overdue honor at the dedication of the Oregon World War II Memorial on the grounds of the state Capitol at 1:30 p.m.  

World War II veterans who fought and died in every theater of battle, and those people who served on the home front, will be honored and remembered during the dedication in Willson Park, on the corner of Cottage and Court streets.    

The dedication ceremony will include guest speakers Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, former state representative and WWII bomber pilot Bill Markham, and Oregon’s Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Dan Hokanson. 

Following some vintage military aircraft flyovers, a ceremonial transfer of the memorial from the foundation to the state of Oregon, a ribbon-cutting will conclude the dedication.

“We want our World War II veterans and those on the home front to be the first to see their memorial,” said World War II Memorial Foundation Chairman Lou Jaffe. “Our goal from day one has been for this memorial to forever be a reminder of the Oregonians who served both at home and abroad during the war.  

“This memorial will not only honor that war’s veterans but educate young people so they’ll always honor and remember those who fought and died in the war during what was probably our nation’s finest hour when we came together in unity.” 

Jaffe also said constructing this memorial is long past due as most World War II veterans are now in their 90s. Until now, Oregon has been one of only six states in the U.S. without a WWII memorial to honor its veterans.

In 2011, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature formalized a task force and foundation, authorizing it to build an official memorial in Salem. 

The Veterans Administration estimates that more than 500 veterans are passing away daily. It is estimated that nearly one million WWII veterans are still living, including more than 17,000 in Oregon.

The Oregon WWII Memorial covers a 75-by-75-foot area at the northwest corner of the capital grounds. At its center is a 33-foot-high obelisk, denoting Oregon as the 33rd state in the union.

It is partially surrounded by two black granite walls that bear the names of the more than 3,770 Oregonians who gave their lives while serving in combat. Most of the memorial’s stone floor is made up of “pavers” inscribed with a global map. There are two granite benches featured inside the memorial. 

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the memorial occurred exactly two years prior on June 6. Oregon Army National Guard soldiers actually began clearing and preparing the area for construction in February.

A late-2013 fundraising effort by the foundation activated several matching grants that helped the project reach its needed goal of $1.2 million to begin construction.

Speaking for the foundation’s board, Jaffe expressed deep appreciation for the generosity of the Larry and Jeannette Epping Family Fund, the Murdock Charitable Trust, the R.H. Parker/United Foundation, Dick Withnell and several other major contributors who helped make this endeavor a reality.

“However, our largest donation came from the state of Oregon (which) provided funding and support,” he said. “We are incredibly grateful to them and to the hundreds of private donors who made this possible.”

While nearly all of the costs have been covered, there are some finishing touches on the memorial that will still require funding. The Oregon World War II Foundation will become part of the Historical Outreach Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the honor of Oregon’s military veterans.  

To learn more, or to make a contribution to the ongoing educational efforts related to the Oregon World War II Memorial, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.historicaloutreach.com/" www.historicaloutreach.com or call 503-705-5965.