Solemn ceremonies honor America's war dead

Flowers, wreaths decorate gravesites across Peninsula

Members of the Mount Olympus Detachment 897 of the Marine Corps League give a 21-gun salute at a Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park in Port Angeles on Monday. The ceremony was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6787 of Carlsborg and was one of many Memorial Day events held in Clallam and Jefferson counties. (Peter Segall/Peninsula News)

Members of the Mount Olympus Detachment 897 of the Marine Corps League give a 21-gun salute at a Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park in Port Angeles on Monday. The ceremony was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6787 of Carlsborg and was one of many Memorial Day events held in Clallam and Jefferson counties. (Peter Segall/Peninsula News)

PORT ANGELES — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6787 of Carlsborg held a quiet and solemn ceremony at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park, honoring the nation’s deceased veterans, one of many Memorial Day ceremonies scheduled across the Peninsula.

More than 50 people gathered Monday morning around the Veterans Circle at the southern end of the cemetery where small American flags were placed at the graves of interred veterans and more than a dozen full-size flags were arranged around the circle. The American Legion Riders Post 29 of Port Angeles formed a flag line while bagpiper Erik Evans played songs like Amazing Grace.

Following a performance of the national anthem, Carl Bradshaw, a former commander of the Carlsborg post, read out General Orders No. 11, also known as the Memorial Day Order.

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land,” said the orders, written by Gen. John Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, on May 5, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War.

“What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes,” the orders said.

Following the reading and an invocation by a pastor, three flowers — one red, one white and one blue — were ceremoniously placed by post members.

The white, Bradshaw said, represents purity; “may each future generation emulate the unselfish courage of all men and women who fought for our freedom.”

The red, sacrifice; “in memory of the heroic dead who have fallen in defense of the United States,” Bradshaw said. “In tribute of our devotion and everlasting remembrance.”

The blue, in honor of women veterans and family members, represents eternity; “its color beseeks life everlasting, thus do we immortalize the brave deeds of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, who have given their lives on land, in the sea and in the air.”

Bradshaw, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War, said he wasn’t entirely sure of the origin of the three flowers ceremony, but it traces back to the beginning of the VFW.

“They wanted to do something to tribute to the veterans’ courage and their purity of heart for what they were doing by enlisting and putting themselves in harm’s way,” Bradshaw said. “It has just been something that we have done every year since the very beginning.”

Following the ceremony, members of the public were asked to lay their own wreaths and the Mount Olympus Detachment 897 of the Marine Corps League gave a 21-gun salute and one of their members played taps on a bugle.

League member Mark Schildknecht, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, said he’s been doing salutes for about 15 years.

“It’s a privilege to do this,” he said.

The morning ceremony was quiet and brief, and many of the attendees left the cemetery only to head to another for a different Memorial Day ceremony.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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