Chemeketa Remembers the Fallen
By Ramon Camacho
The gray skies and chilly, rainy, typical Oregon spring weather appeared to hold off as Chemeketa students, staff, and veterans assembled to celebrate the Veterans’ Club Memorial Day celebration in the Quad next to Bldg. 9 on May 30.
Among those present were Sgt. Duane Reno, Major Paul Evans, and Cindy Ramey, the president of the Chemeketa Veterans’ Club.
“We wanted to share this moment with you,” Ramey said as she welcomed those in attendance.
Although the United States celebrates and observes the last Monday of May as Memorial Day, for the Ramey and the members of the Veterans’ Club, it was important to state that May 30 was the traditional day of observance – and for them, it still is.
Ramey said she believed that our soldiers gave up their freedom for a much bigger cause – one that was worth dying for.
“They pick up the check so we can enjoy our freedom,” Ramey said.
Ramey next introduced Reno to sing the national anthem.
Reno, who is currently stationed in Salem, has been serving the Oregon Army National Guard since July 2004. Reno also is a Chemeketa student who is pursuing his Associate of Applied Science degree and maintains an impressive 3.45 GPA.
The celebration continued with a brief moment of silence after Reno’s interpretation. Ramey then introduced Evans as the keynote speaker.
At this point, the Oregon rain started to fall and it seemed as if those in attendance might chose to leave.
But the audience stayed put and braved the weather to listen.
“Today’s celebrations have evolved since 1868,” Evans said.
He explained that for many Americans, Memorial Day was merely another three-day weekend. He continued with background history of the Memorial Day traditions.
“But for veterans, and the families and friends of veterans, Memorial Day remains an uncomfortable day of reflection and introspection – a day of gathering together … a day for long, loud silence and taps melancholy.
“Our nation celebrates the contributions of all veterans – and all Americans – but we set aside this day to pause and consider the men and women that can no longer speak for themselves.”
And as the rain continued to pour down, Evans said, “Today we stand under gray skies; we stand under bright stars; we stand under broad stripes gleaming.”
According to Evans, it is estimated that 1.1 million U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have given their last measure of devotion for our country.
Evans listed the numbers of the fallen in each of the biggest wars and ongoing battles that the U.S. militia has fought in through the years.
“Perhaps, in a land of absent freedom, this caustic remark makes no sense,” Evans said.
“But in the land of the free, the home of the brave, each casualty is a face, a life, a spirit. Each battlefield death was an act of selflessness – each, a gift.”
Evans acknowledged that in society today, it is easy to forget the many courageous acts that the fallen have given, but it is important to never forget their brave contributions.
“It is natural that the living memories of these men and women fade with time, but we must not allow our nation, states, or communities to forget the value of [the fallen’s] virtue. We are responsible for keeping their story alive.”
Evans said that we must carry on the legacy and opportunities given to us by the fallen, and he called for those in the audience to rekindle hope and love for one another.
“Love is the bond that can, and will, sustain our great union during the most difficult times,” he said.
“Let us remember the sacrifice of the men and women that gave us the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. … Let us honor sacrifice with personal commitment to renewing our national spirit – refreshing our American Dream.”
Ramey concluded the events and invited those in attendance to participate in the lunch that followed.
As veterans, students, and staff spoke with each other, some shared memories of their experience in the service.
Everett Patten, a veteran and member of the veterans’ club, said that the Memorial Day celebration “makes me very appreciative of my fellow veterans who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
“This event is a sobering experience that allows reflecting upon what the costs of us living in this free nation are and what freedom is about. Memorial Day is a day to reflect on the things that you take for or may take for granted.”
Adeline Hall, the veterans’ club treasurer, is not a veteran herself but is a descendent of a veteran.
Hall said, “This event is important for the Chemeketa community because it has been well known for countless generations to give importance to those who serve to this country.
“I feel we should commemorate our fallen soldiers in events like this because they have served the country with courage and bravery to defend and protect our country. Without the soldiers who fought for our country, the United States wouldn’t be a great nation as it is today.”
Ramey said, “I would really like to tell everyone to just take a moment and look back at their lives and think about where they want to go in the future because they have that opportunity to do whatever they want,” thanks to the sacrifices of the nation’s fallen soldiers.
Ramey also talked about her appreciation and gratitude for her fellow veterans who have fallen in duty. She said
that we should all show the same amount of gratitude for the privileges we have because of them.
“Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily routine that we forget why we are able to have all of the freedom and privileges that we have,” she said.
As veterans, students, and staff enjoyed the barbeque put on by the veterans’ club, the skies started to clear again, recalling again the words of Major Evans’ moving speech:
“Today we remember, for tomorrow – tomorrow we act. … Let us lift up the yoke, together, and pull together in common cause a new generation of Americans, committed to honoring the men and women who have hallowed our lands through continuing the cause they held so dear.
“Together, we can change the world. Together, they already did. It is our time, it is our duty, and it is our turn.”