‘Freedom is not free’: Hundreds honor the fallen at Edmonds Memorial Day ceremony

The traditional Memorial Day observance at the Edmonds Cemetery drew an estimated 200 attendees Monday, united to remember and honor members of the U.S. armed services who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.

“The Edmonds Cemetery is the final resting place to approximately 600 veterans dating back to the Civil War,” began Cemetery Board Member Jerry Janacek as he welcomed attendees.  “Among our 16 Civil War veterans is Col. Samuel Street, who also served as Edmonds mayor.”

Janacek’s remarks were followed by a presentation of the colors by members of the Edmonds VFW Post 8870, the Pledge of Allegiance led by a contingent of Girl Scouts, singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by David Little, and a bagpipe rendition of “Grand Old Flag” by piper Jan Begg.

In his invocation, Pastor Barry Crane of Edmonds’ North Sound Church reminded attendees that “though we come from many races and religion, we are all Americans, and we realize that freedom is not free.”

Crane was followed by the North Sound Singers under the direction of Allan Skoog singing “America the Beautiful.”

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson next took the podium, noting that Arlington National Cemetery was created in the wake of the Civil War, a war that saw “the greatest loss of life of any of America’s armed conflicts.”

He went on to point out that this was not a war against an external aggressor, but rather between opposing groups of American citizens.

“We must never give up trying to form a more perfect union,” he declared. “Our country is a work in progress, but there is always more that unites us than divides us. We must never forget what all our fallen service members died to protect. Let these heroic actions never be forgotten.”

Nelson was followed by keynote speaker Monica McNeal, Edmonds resident and president of American Gold Star Mothers for Washington, Alaska and Oregon, a group of mothers who lost a son or daughter while in service to their country. McNeal’s son, Lance Cpl. Eric Levi Ward, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Feb. 21, 2010.

“This is a special day for me,” McNeal began. “Gold Star moms are the living legacy that keeps our children’s names alive; we say the names out loud. My son Eric was a fourth-generation Marine whose goal was always to continue in this tradition. He served for 18 months between leaving boot camp and being killed. I continue to serve in his honor and his footsteps.

“The last time I saw Eric alive was when he got on the bus for Camp Lejeune,” she continued. “As he got on the bus he told me to ‘be a strong Marine mom’ and to ‘lace up my boots no matter what happens.’ While it wasn’t in person, I saw him again with his fellow Marines in a You Tube broadcast over the Christmas holidays.”

She learned of his death two months later while at work.

“I was called into my CEO’s office, and saw two Marines standing there,” she related. “They told me Eric had been killed.”

Since then, she has dedicated herself to honoring Eric’s service and that of others who continue to serve. Eric now rests in Arlington National Cemetery.

“The true cost of war is not the trillions of dollars, but in young lives like Eric’s,” she concluded. “Some gave all; all gave some. God bless America.”

McNeal was followed by Mike Denton of VFW Post 8870, who conducted the missing man table ceremony in memory of those who remain missing in action. Next was the ship’s bell ceremony officiated by VFW Post 8870 Commander Carl Kurfess, who read off the names of Snohomish County service members who died in Iran and Afghanistan. He was assisted by Vietnam veteran John Shelton, who rang the bell as each name was read.

The ceremonies ended with “God Bless America” by the North Sound Singers, the benediction by Pastor Barry Crane, taps and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. Thanks for covering this so well. I have a heart of gratitude today to all those who gave their lives serving our country. May we never forget them. The freedoms we enjoy today were bought by the sacrifice of others.

  2. Very nice services. 1 small correction. I was at my Fathers grave. He was a Navy Hospital corpsman trained as a pharmacy specialist with combat medical aid. Transferred to US Marines to go to the Solomon Islands. His 1st deployment was the Solomon Is. As he talked very little about it, HELL ON EARTH. He saved a marine squad pinned down by a Japanese snipers. He crawled behind them stopping the fire with grenades & the use of his M1 Garrand rifle. He came home never to fight again. He went to the UW. He graduated as a Audiologist / Speech therapist starting the Edmonds school district 15 program. He helped 100’s of children better their lives. The people asking about our Family miss understood that in the US Civil War we were from Louisiana & served the Confederate military. My Father was not or ever was Confederate or a racist. No child or family was ever turned away for help with their special needs. He left the school district after 30 years of diligent faithfull service to help ALL! the reason he left was to take care of his Wife, my Mother Mikki , who was dying of terminal cancer who died at 57 years old. Be thankful of those who sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others! Arthur P. Janette III

  3. A slight correction to my title. I am the Department of American Gold Star Mothers for WA, AK and OR. I was honored to be at this ceremony.

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