Remembering the Fallen

A virtual Memorial Day ceremony was held at Cottage Grove City Hall on May 31 during which names of the fallen were read by VFW Commander Kristine Sweezy. Outside, a biodegradable wreath was dropped into the Coast Fork. [Photo by Damien Sherwood]

Memorial Day was commemorated in Cottage Grove on May 31 in a partially virtual ceremony broadcast from city hall for the second time.

As with last year’s ceremony, coronavirus concerns restricted the audience to only a few people in the chamber.

American Legion Post 32 and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3473, in partnership with the City of Cottage Grove, conducted the observance.

Pastor Jim Markus of Trinity Lutheran Church started off the ceremony with an opening prayer of remembrance for those who have sacrificed their lives in service of the country.

Following a performance of the national anthem by Cora Branstetter, Mayor Jeff Gowing spoke to the audience.

“The last year of the pandemic, I feel I’ve lost something not being able to go on the National Veterans Awareness Ride and spread the message that freedom is not free,” he said, expressing his admiration for those who have made the journey to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Gowing also shared his observation of the many families loading travel trailers, motorhomes and boats to enjoy the summer weather over the weekend.

“I just hope that they take a moment from the gatherings, barbecues and camping trips to remember the sacrifices that have been made to allow our freedom to exist,” he said.

Gowing ended with a quote from General George Patton: “Freedom has a taste, and for those who have fought for it, the taste is so sweet the protected will never know.”

Next, Cottage Grove area resident Colonel Erik Benson delivered a keynote speech which honored the many servicemen and servicewomen who came before him.

Benson also read from an American Legion article honoring 19-year-old Army Specialist Cindy Beaudoin, who was killed in action at the very end of the Gulf War after her convoy struck a landmine.

Beaudoin had written a letter to be delivered to her parents in the event that she didn’t return.

“I did not come here to be a hero,” she wrote. “I came here because my country needed me to be here. As much as I hate being so far away from home, I am here with thousands of other soldiers helping to bring down a very deranged tyrant … If I should die while helping to achieve this, then I did not die in vain …”

Benson’s recitation went on to detail the sacrifice of Ferdi and Alfred Lebrecht, Jewish brothers whose parents had escaped with them out of Nazi Germany in 1938, but returned to fight and perish in the war.

“Most of us will not truly understand the depths of their despair unless we have experienced it,” the article reads. “But we can always offer our support. We can wear the poppy. We can place flags and wreaths at their graves. We can donate to charities that provide for their families. And we can look at their surviving brothers and sisters-in-arms and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

VFW Commander Kristine Sweezy then read a list of fallen veterans from the community and Pastor Markus finished with a closing prayer asking for protection and resolution of conflict between people and nations.

The observance then moved outside where a biodegradable wreath donated by Carol Reeves of Flower Basket was symbolically dropped from the Main Street Bridge into the Coast Fork of the Willamette River.

The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute and a performance of “Taps” at Veterans Park.

To access a recording of the service online, locate the City of Cottage Grove channel on YouTube.

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