|Oregon Military Department OREGON CELEBRATES ARMED FORCES DAY IN SALEM (Story and additional photos)
SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon National Guard celebrated Armed Forces Day at the Oregon State Capitol Mall in downtown Salem, May 13.
The annual celebration gives Oregonians an opportunity to see the capabilities of the Oregon National Guard and introduces them to the agencies which support the state and work with federal partners.
During the ceremony, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski thanked Oregonians in uniform for their contributions and sacrifice.
A highlight of the event was a flyover of the Oregon Air National Guard's top air superiority fighter. Four F-15 Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing broke through the clouds to skim just over the capitol's dome and the Oregon Pioneer, their sleek dark gray wings silhouetted against the gray, rainy sky.
As a tribute to those in uniform, soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard's Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 218th Field Artillery, fired three 105mm Howitzer cannons, filling the Capitol Mall with smoke. Passersby paused to watch, as a thunderous echo reverberated off the buildings in downtown Salem.
Oregon Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Kevin Maries, Logistics NCO for the Counterdrug Support Program, said the event is a chance for people to meet their fellow Oregonians in uniform, but more importantly, for young people to explore opportunities offered by the country's military services.
"Every member has a number of reasons for wanting to serve," he said. "Events like this help youngsters develop a sense of duty, loyalty and dedication."
Several Junior ROTC Color Guard units from area high schools, including an Army unit from Oregon City, a Navy unit from LaPine, and a Marine unit from Redmond, attended the event.
Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet, Melinda Duran, a senior from Henley High School in Klamath Falls, said the event recognizes military members for allowing Americans to enjoy freedom.
"I really appreciate all our armed forces for what they're doing for us," she said.
Navy cadet, Ray Graversen, from LaPine High School, just south of Bend, Ore., said events like this bolster the support of the nation's troops.
"People put flags in front of their house to show support, but anyone can put up a flag," he said. "This event is more proactive."
Duran said in addition to thanking current military members for their sacrifices, veterans from yesteryear should also be recognized.
"I would never be ashamed or embarrassed to go up to a WWII or Korea War vet and shake his hand and thank them," she added.
Duran, received the Gold Medal of Valor in March 2009 for helping to save the life of a fellow cadet, who fell from a 60-foot rappel tower after an equipment malfunction.
Sacrifice, she said, is a big part of being in the military.
"It's about giving up something, like time or energy for a cause or for someone else," Duran said.
Oregon Guard soldiers and airmen were on hand to answer questions about the equipment they use and the jobs they perform, but because of the rain, most of the Guard members and attendees retreated under tents and canopies, where displays and booths promoting different groups within the Oregon National Guard were featured.
The 125th Special Tactics Squadron, based at the Portland Air National Guard Base, displayed their combat controller equipment, including their dive recovery boat, while the Counterdrug Support Program featured their light-armored vehicle.
Standing next to the LAV in the Capitol Mall, Maries said the goal of Armed Forces Day is to not just promote the National Guard, but to also help the public understand the benefit Guard members bring to their communities.
"Within Counterdrug, we have the drug-demand reduction program, which speaks directly to middle- and high-school children about drug awareness and avoidance," he said.
Maries, a 24-year member of the Oregon Army National Guard, said he is privileged to work with his fellow soldiers and airmen.
"The men and women I've had the opportunity to work with are phenomenal," he said. "I'm very proud to wear the uniform."
United States President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service in support of the country.
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under the Department of Defense.
090513-F-1639C-002.JPG: Members of the public brave the cold and rain in the Oregon State Capitol Mall to attend the Armed Forces Day event in Salem, Ore., May 13. Several Oregon National Guard units participated in the annual event with static displays, a cannon tribute, and F-15 flyover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)
090513-F-1639C-034.JPG: Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet, Melinda Duran, a senior from Henley High School in Klamath Falls, Ore., stands in front of the Oregon National Guard's Counterdrug Support Program's light-armored vehicle at the Armed Forces Day event in Salem, Ore., May 13. Duran joined several other JROTC cadets from high schools around Oregon to serve as the official color guard for the event, held at the Oregon State Capitol Mall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office)
Contact Info: Captain Stephen Bomar
Deputy Public Affairs Officer
Oregon Military Department