Remarks As Prepared
Memorial Day – Willamette National Cemetery
May 25, 2015
Thank you and good morning. It is an honor to be with you and share my thoughts on our military and veterans this Memorial Day.
As the daughter of a member of the United States Air Force, I have incredible respect and admiration for people who volunteer to serve and protect our country.
To the service members and veterans here today, thank you for the contributions that you have made to keep our great state and nation safe.
Over the years, I have welcomed service members home as they return from duty. And while these celebrations bring me much joy, I’m also reminded that we are still sending soldiers on missions around the world.
As a state, and as individual citizens, we must wrap our arms around our service members, veterans and their families, and support them through their deployments and after they return home.
For many, Memorial Day weekend is the symbolic start of summer, filled with barbecues and big discount sales. As we gather together on this hallowed ground of Willamette National Cemetery, the true meaning of Memorial Day is brought into sharp relief.
Each flat gravestone has been commemorated with honor today with a small American flag placed by Boy Scout volunteers. The collective visual impact of the more than 140,000 flags on this hilltop is powerful.
Ultimately, though, it is not just the symbols and ceremony that draw us to this final resting place, but the compelling stories of the brave individuals buried here.
They are Oregonians, like Sergeant First Class Stanley Adams of Bend, who fought in World War II. He also served during the Korean War – which is often referred to as “the Forgotten War.”
But Sergeant Adams’ service in the Korean War will never be forgotten.
He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on February 4th, 1951, when he led his small platoon on a bayonet charge against an opposing force of 150 enemy soldiers in Korea. He engaged in hand-to-hand combat for nearly an hour, despite being shot in the leg and knocked off his feet four times by grenades, until the hostile forces began to retreat.
Adams’ Medal of Honor remains on display in the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles where he was once a resident, and he is also memorialized in the Stan and Jean Adams Community Center.
Also buried here at Willamette National Cemetery is First Lieutenant Erik McCrae, a member of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade.
Lieutenant McCrae was just 25 years old in 2004 when he was deployed to Iraq with Second Battalion, 162nd Infantry. His unit patrolled the dangerous streets of Sadr City. Lieutenant McCrae and two of his Humvee crewmembers were killed while bravely assisting a U.S. military convoy under attack.
Erik’s last words before succumbing to his injuries were to ask how his crew members were. He died never knowing that two of them were also killed by the same IED (Improvised Explosive Device). He left behind a young wife and grieving parents.
Erik was a superb platoon leader. He epitomized the men and women in our Oregon National Guard who never hesitate to put on the uniform to protect us both here at home and overseas.
Across four generations and five major wars, each individual buried here at Willamette is a service member who raised his or her right hand and swore to defend our values and way of life. They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. I am humbled by their service and sacrifice.
Today, we pause to remember our fallen. We remember their honor. We remember their courage. And we remember their dedication.
Today, we also honor our military families and especially our Gold Star Families. Our Gold Star Families are unsung heroes who continue to live in the spirit of their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. Our military families do not serve in uniform, but there is no question that they serve with quiet strength and resiliency.
This ceremony today is a small act compared to the service and sacrifice of our military and their families. But it is my honor to join you in resolving never to forget those who have given their lives in the name of freedom.
Thank you for joining me in honoring the memory of our military, our veterans and our fallen heroes. God bless you, God bless all those still serving overseas, and God bless America.