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home : current news : current news August 19, 2014

6/10/2014 1:08:00 PM
Sisters community honors World War II veterans
Veterans were visibly moved by the display of patriotism and gratitude. photo by Jim Cornelius
+ click to enlarge
Veterans were visibly moved by the display of patriotism and gratitude. photo by Jim Cornelius

Sisters veterans unfurled their flags to honor World War II veterans on their way through Sisters. photo by Jerry Baldock
+ click to enlarge
Sisters veterans unfurled their flags to honor World War II veterans on their way through Sisters. photo by Jerry Baldock

The Sisters community turned out in force to salute some 50 Central Oregon World War II veterans as they caravanned through town on their way to Salem. They were headed to the dedication of the Oregon World War II Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol on the afternoon of Friday, June 6 - the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.

Sisters veterans groups unfurled their flags and lined Cascade Avenue in downtown Sisters, while students from all three Sisters schools turned out to cheer and wave banners as the caravan passed.

Sheriff's Deputy Don Pray led the procession with lights and siren, followed by an escort contingent of motorcycle riders from Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association's local chapter. The World War II veterans filled several transport vans and private vehicles. They waved, smiled and offered thumbs up as they rolled into the high school parking lot to a crowd of cheering students.

Becky Stoughton, who helped coordinate the school turnout, noted that, "Officer Pray ... stopped by and shared with me that he got to get on the one of the busses to say hello at the end of the drive-through. The veterans were crying - and mentioned to him that they felt more honored here in Sisters than what they were given last year in Washington, D.C."

World War II veterans who fought and died in every theatre of battle, and those people who served on the home front, were honored and remembered during the dedication in Willson Park, on the corner of Cottage and Court Street.

The dedication ceremony included guest speakers Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, former state representative and World War II bomber pilot Bill Markham, and Oregon's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Dan Hokanson.

Following some vintage military aircraft flyovers, a ceremonial transfer of the memorial from the foundation to the State of Oregon, a ribbon-cutting concluded the dedication.

"We want our World War II veterans and those on the home front to be the first to see their memorial," said World War II Memorial Foundation chair, Lou Jaffe. "Our goal from day one has been for this memorial to forever be a reminder of the Oregonians who served both at home and abroad during the war. This memorial will not only honor that war's veterans, but educate young people so they'll always honor and remember those who fought and died in the war during what was probably our nation's finest hour when we came together in unity."

Jaffe also said constructing this memorial is long past due as most World War II veterans are now in their nineties. Until now, Oregon has been one of only six states in the U.S. without a World War II memorial to honor its veterans. In 2011, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature formalized a task force and foundation, authorizing it to build an official memorial in Salem.

The Veterans Administration now estimates that over 500 veterans are passing away daily. It is estimated that nearly one million WWII veterans are still living, including more than 17,000 in Oregon.

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