EDITORIAL: Don't rule out all memorials

Oak Harbor City Councilman Paul Brewer deserves credit for stubbornly standing up for the rights of the aging P2V Neptune community in a debate over memorials in city parks last week.

Faced with the impending policy to ban all future military memorials in city parks, Brewer emotionally defended an exemption for the former P2V Neptune pilots and crews, who without fanfare or even much notice, protected America’s borders for many years during the Cold War.

The P2V veterans formed the Whidbey Patrol Squadron Memorial Committee more than four years ago with the aim of creating a memorial in the city’s VFW Memorial Park on Pioneer Way. That effort was eventually stalled when the city decided to study the very concept of memorials to specific groups in city parks.

Eventually, the city council adopted a memorial policy that encourages specific groups to look to elsewhere for memorial sites. Concerns ranged from cluttering up the parks with memorials, to the cost of maintaining memorials, and even the ill-considered expression that people visiting parks should not be “burdened with a constant reminder of death.” Actually, military memorials aren’t about death, they’re about honor, sacrifice and inspiration. The council should consider deleting that wording from the policy.

In fact, the council should reconsider the entire policy. A blanket policy forbidding all memorials in city parks is unwise, particularly in a community comprised of so many proud veterans. Military groups should not feel that the city won’t even consider their memorial proposals simply because a policy was adopted. It’s possible that some future memorial proposal will have widespread community support, that a proper park site will be found, and that it will be designed for easy maintenance.

Like anything else, memorials need to be regulated, but banning them is a simple-minded solution to a complex issue, particularly in a Navy town.

Meanwhile, Brewer won a hard-fought exemption to the policy for the Neptune community, based upon the amount of time they’ve waited for permission to construct their memorial. Good job, councilman. You couldn’t have picked a more deserving group of people to defend. We look forward to seeing the Neptune memorial unveiled in VFW Memorial Park.

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