On a day when America publicly honors its fallen warriors, Monday’s Memorial Day ceremonies seemed more like a collection of individual thought.

Right around 40 gathered at the 133-year-old Independent Order of Odd Fellows Brick Road Memorial Park, which first opened in 1882 with 900 veterans of military service dating back to the Civil War.

On the other side of town, several hundred gathered at Ellensburg Memorial Park to join in a grateful nation’s efforts to honor its men and women who died defending this country.

Like the military men and women they were honoring, participants came from all walks of life, gathering to pay tribute in their own special way. There were several glances skyward, some distant, far away stares at the horizon, others wiped a tear or two away on a day where no words remotely compared to the sound of taps by a lone bugler.

There were those honoring fallen comrades, gathering to remember, gathering to heal, lest not forget. Beards had turned gray, there was less bounce in the step that carried them from harm’s way, but the sense of dignity, commitment and honor was on display every bit as much as the American flags that lined the grave sites and walkways.

“We’re here to honor all veterans. We don’t want any vets coming home to what we (Vietnam veterans) did,” said Veterans of Foreign War Rodeo Post 683 senior vice commander Al Bragg, who served in Vietnam from 1964-65. “The first year I was in-country, back to Ellensburg, I cried the whole time. I’d never been thanked. People didn’t respect the military. Like I said, we don’t want any vets coming home to what we did.”

It was a day of respect to those who served, those who had fallen in the name of freedom from the war to end all wars to the current affairs and the military presence in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Miniature flags lined the neat grave site rows at the 40-acre IOOF cemetery in east Ellensburg at the cemetery that dates all the way back to 1882. The memorial wall that served a backdrop to the intimate setting on a warm day in central Washington.

The honor guard brought in three flags, first came the American flag, then the National League of Families POW/MIA flag, ever reminding us, ‘til they all come home, and finally the familiar Washington state banner.

Bragg officially named the area Stan Dudley Park, unveiling a memorial plaque in honor of the Chief Petty Officer who turned 100 years old in November. Dudley, who was in charge of five Navy direction-finding technicians during World War II, was recognized with a unit commendation is just below a Presidential Commendation.

One of Ellensburg’s most distinguished veterans not only had the pleasure of being there for his own dedication ceremony, he had a chance to share one more story with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy (June 6) looming in the not so distant future.

“Today is as much about the human spirit as it is anything,” said Tom Duke, who was stationed at El Torro Marine Corps Air Station from 1965-70. “People need to understand that all lives matter and our veterans are coming home ... broken.

“Today is to honor them, but what we need to do is honor them every day. As a country, we need to protect and honor each other, have a conversation and see what we can do to help our veterans move forward. We need to come to grips with this.”

There were a few cringes as the guns sounded during the nine gun salute, the sound flashing private memories and personal horrors. But, for the most part, it was a day to give thanks to those who manned the post while the rest of the country had Christmas dinner.

Thanks for walking point, making a difference and thanks to you and yours for making the ultimate sacrifice when your tour of duty asked you to step into harm’s way for the good of the country.

It was a day that said thanks to those who deserve to hear it more than once a year in some park. Salute.


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