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Tualatin observes Memorial Day with program, picnic

TIMES FILE PHOTO - George Hager, pictured here in 2015, was the honored veteran at Tualatin's Memorial Day program sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary 3452, the Winona Cemetery board and the city of Tualatin. Hager served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.“It's a beautiful day in Tualatin,” Mayor Lou Ogden said at the Winona Cemetery on Monday. “It's also a beautiful day, like every day, to be an American.”

Ogden and other members of the Tualatin community were at the cemetery to pay respects to military veterans and fallen service members on Memorial Day.

True to Ogden's word, the weather was sunny and warm — not so hot as to be stifling during the hourlong program, but pleasant enough that most attendees wore short sleeves as they sat in the sun. But the focus during the program was on the American flag and the men and women who have served under it.

“It's not a cliché, it's an axiom, that freedom isn't free. And that's what we're here to talk about today,” Ogden said. “We're here to talk about those brave who have given their ultimate sacrifice to keep our freedoms for us.”

George Hager was the honored veteran Monday. A bugler aboard the U.S.S. Fulton during World War II, Hager used to be the senior bugler at the annual Memorial Day event in Tualatin.

“For seven years, he was our primary bugler and played 'Taps' for us and stood underneath that flag,” said Dale Potts, a past president of the Tualatin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 who emceed Monday's program. “He loves doing the horn, but this year, he told me he's lost his lip. That's a term that means he can't play anymore.”

Potts explained that Hager told him he had “lost his lip” because, after years of attending a monthly meeting for World War II veterans, he reached the point where he was the only person left to attend.

“None of them are left to come to the meeting anymore. They're either deceased or they're in rest homes. So he lost his incentive to play,” Potts said.

Hager said he has been playing the trumpet since 1934.

“I thank you for honoring the veteran,” Hager told the crowd at the event. “The ones that I served with were on a ship that had a 1,500-man crew. I was the fellow that got them up in the morning and put them to bed at night, because the old bugle never takes a rest. It just stands by, waiting to be used.”

Ogden was one of three elected officials who spoke at program. Both of Tualatin's state legislators, Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Julie Parrish, also attended and addressed the audience. Both Devlin and Parrish also have strong military bona fides in their own right — Devlin served in the U.S. Marine Corps, while Parrish's husband is an Iraq War veteran.

Parrish recounted taking each of her three sons on separate trips to Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day and listening to the remarks given by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the ceremonies they attended there.

“As they spoke of service and sacrifice, and as the Army band played 'Taps,' the squirming stopped, and I watched as each of my boys began to understand the sacrifice people make to serve,” Parrish said. “As they listened to our leaders speak, they learned that regardless of what political party is in office, we all have an obligation to care for our veterans, and that together, we share the pain each time we lose a soldier.”

Devlin noted that this year's observance is considered to be the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day, according to a 50-year-old presidential proclamation and congressional resolution that the tradition began in Waterloo, N.Y., in 1866.

“I think it's important to remember the history of Memorial Day, but we should always remember that the underlying purpose of Memorial Day is to honor and remember those members of the armed forces that made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom,” Devlin said.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici was slated to attend and read a presidential proclamation, but Potts said she had contracted laryngitis and was unable to attend.

After the program at the Winona Cemetery, which was sponsored by the VFW Auxiliary 3452, the cemetery board and the city of Tualatin, the community was invited to a free picnic at Tualatin Community Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

More Memorial Day coverage:

Photos from Tigard's Crescent Grove Cemetery

By Mark Miller
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