Kelly Davidson organized a Memorial Day ceremony at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Oak Harbor that’s sure to be powerful and emotional. Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Kelly Davidson organized a Memorial Day ceremony at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Oak Harbor that’s sure to be powerful and emotional. Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

A day for tributes

This year’s Memorial Day ceremony to be stirring, memorable

Kelly Davidson was disappointed when she attended the Memorial Day Service in Maple Leaf Cemetery last year, shortly after moving to the Oak Harbor community.

She expected the Navy town to have a tremendous ceremony but found only a handful of people attending a brief remembrance.

“I thought, ‘We can do better than that,’” she said.

And so the community will.

Davidson, a funeral director at Wallin Funeral Home, spearheaded a nine-month effort to organize an event much larger in scale and depth. She brought together leadership from the cemetery district, Oak Harbor’s VFW post, the American Legion and the Fleet Reserve to form a Memorial Day Committee to plan the ceremony; the veterans service organizations will also give presentations on the day.

Oak Harbor Lions Club is the official sponsor with the VFW being this year’s co-sponsor.

Expect a stirring ceremony punctuated with music.

The Oak Harbor High School Chorus will perform patriotic songs a cappella. Valerie Rocha will sing “America the Beautiful.” Navy Band Northwest will present Echo Taps.

“It’s two bugles playing together in tandem,” she said. “It’s really something.”

Capt. Matthew Arny, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, will recognize Gold Star families by reading the names of those they lost.

Bill Thiel, NJROTC instructor, will explain the symbolism as the Color Guard folds the flag, Davidson said.

Peter Hunt, a school board member and retired lieutenant commander in the Navy, will speak.

Mayor Bob Severns will act as emcee. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen recently confirmed he is attending, Davidson said. Patriot Guard Riders from the region are expected to attend.

It will end with a flyover from a Navy Search and Rescue helicopter draping the flag.

Davidson said Gold Star and Blue Star families may check in at the greeter table for preferred seating. Gold Star families provide a name for Arny to read.

Parking might be challenging at Maple Leaf Ceremony, so Davidson advises people to arrive by about 9 a.m.

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and is planned to last about an hour.

“I’m hoping for good weather,” she said.

Afterward, everyone is invited to a potluck at the VFW.

Sunnyside Cemetery in Coupeville will hold a short, traditional service at 1 p.m. with the VFW, American Legion and Fleet Reserve laying wreathes with a reception following at the Legion building at 690 SE Barrington Dr. in Oak Harbor.

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