An estimated 300 people gathered at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery on Monday morning to honor, pay tribute and give thanks to those who were wounded and who lost their lives defending our country, our democracy and our constitution.
“Today we are giving particular focus to not just the fallen, but to our combat wounded veterans,” said Capt. Richard Marin (USN – Ret) in his welcoming message.
Following Marin’s remarks, a color guard comprised of representatives from Boy Scout Troop 300, Girl Scout Troop 42025, VFW Post 8870 and American Legion Post 66 conducted the traditional flag-raising ceremony, accompanied by Ian Alvarez on drums and Cathy Draper on flute.
This was followed by the National Anthem sung by David Little, an invocation by North Sound Church Pastor Barry Crane, and a medley of the signature music of the various armed forces branches performed by the Edmonds-Woodway High School brass quintet.
This year’s VFW Post 8870 Freedom Scholarship recipient — Troy Slocum of Archbishop Murphy High School — then read his winning essay, in which he evoked the words of founding father Benjamin Franklin who, when asked what kind of government he and other members of the constitutional convention had created, replied “A republic – if you can keep it.”
Slocum’s essay made the case that “keeping it” means that as a people we are free to act, but only in accord with what’s good for the nation, consistent with the Constitution, and mindful of the many different viewpoints that have contributed to the evolution of our republic.
“The Constitution is not a rulebook for all situations,” he said, “but rather a framework where the government derives its power from the consent of the governed – its citizens. And we have done this, Mr. Franklin. We have kept it.”
Next to speak was Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, who remined the audience that “Edmonds is a Purple Heart City, where we honor and remember those who were wounded or killed in combat.”
“We remember your sacrifice, your pain, and those who were robbed of their future so we could have ours,” he concluded. “Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.”
(The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who were wounded in combat action or posthumously to the next of kin of those who are killed or die of wounds received in action. Learn more here.)
Nelson was followed by keynote speaker Marine Sgt. Robert Olivarez, the Junior National Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
“This is a day to pay tribute to those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Olivarez began. “What they gave defined and made possible our freedoms and our way of life. We owe them a debt that cannot be repaid.
“We also remember the families they left behind – the spouses who have lost their loved one, the children who grew up without a parent,” he continued. “Today we rededicate ourselves to the principles they gave so much for, and work together for a world where war is unnecessary.”
Olivarez’s remarks were followed by the Ships Bell ceremony, which this year recognized Purple Heart recipients among the attendees. As the names were read off, veteran Phil Sacks — who still carries shrapnel in his body from wounds received more than 70 years ago — struck a solemn single note for each person.
This was followed by the White Table Ceremony moderated by VFW Post 8870 Commander Carl Kurfess, who explained the symbolism behind a simple table set for one who is missing or lost in action.
Pastor Barry Crane then returned to the podium to deliver the benediction, reminding attendees of the great debt we owe to those wounded or lost in action, and that the freedoms we enjoy today were bought with their sacrifices.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel