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Honoring those who served

A bugler stands in the rain during the Memorial Day ceremony at Maple Leaf cemetery. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
A bugler stands in the rain during the Memorial Day ceremony at Maple Leaf cemetery.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

A solemn crowd gathered at a soggy Maple Leaf Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor those who died serving their nation.

Some braved the rain while others huddled under a tent or umbrellas to observe the ceremony and listen to the speakers.

In a poignant display, the graves of servicemen and women surrounding the ceremony on all sides were each marked with a small American flag.

The speakers focused on all the nation owes to the brave men and women who fought in wars since the American Revolution.

Dave Hollett filled in for the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post as the master of ceremonies. He introduced the speakers, the laying of wreaths and the tolling of a bell in remembrance those who died in service to their nation.

He spoke eloquently about what it means to be a veteran.

“The title ‘veteran’ must be earned,” he said. It is a title endowed by a grateful nation on citizens whose shoulders were broad enough to carry the weight of our common defense. It is a title that speaks of courage and sacrifice in the face of mortal danger. It is a title that speaks of compassion and heartbreak in the wake of the terrible cost of war.

And it is a title that speaks of love of country, and of a belief in America’s goodness, and our strength.”

Mayor Scott Dudley said more than 1,346,000 men and women have sacrificed themselves for their country.

“It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion,” he said. “It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to assemble. It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. And it is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.”

Ron Price of the American Legion spoke about Sgt. William Stacey, a Marine from Seattle who was killed in action in Afghanistan Jan. 31, 2012. Price said Stacey, like many members to the military, left behind a letter in case of his death.

Price read the letter.

“My death did not change the world. ... But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him.

He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change the world, then I know it was all worth it.”

At the end, Hollett explained the meaning of Taps before the bugler played.

“There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call,” he said. “Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate the air.”

A Memorial Day ceremony also took place Saturday at Town Park in Coupeville. Captain Mike Nortier spoke during the ceremony attended by several Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans. Jim Stansell, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, conducted a bell ceremony during the event.

Prior to the ceremony, a festive parade took place through the streets of the historic town.

I am honored to speak on behalf of the Navy, but it is especially humbling to stand here in uniform and speak about the many American heroes we honor on this special day,” said Capt. Mike Nortier, commanding officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

“Memorial Day is a time to pause and take the long view, to take stock of what really matters, to think about what we do and why we do it.”

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