News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters observes Memorial Day

The morning of Monday, May 29 carried the warm promise of summer and the pleasures of a three-day weekend in sunny Sisters Country - but many Sisters Country residents gathered in Village Green for a purpose more somber and more weighty than a holiday barbecue.

As they have done for many years, Sisters veterans organizations - VFW Post 8138, Sisters Band of Brothers, and American Legion Post 86 - hosted a moving tribute to the fallen of America's conflicts, from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terror.

The Memorial Day observances were freighted with the ceremony and symbolism that reflects the solemnity of the military tribute. Coast Guard veteran and Commander of American Legion Post 86 Charles Wilson V served as master of Ceremonies, and guided the congregation through traditions of honor, including the Missing Man Table, which honors POWs/MIA, and the laying of a wreath in honor of the dead. The Redmond High School Junior Marine ROTC posted the colors, accompanied by the strains of the Scottish bagpipes played by Steve Allely of Sisters. David Wentworth sang the National Anthem, his rich baritone leading a soft murmur of voices in the audience, also singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Each year, the observances include a remembrance of veterans from the community who have passed on. Hal Darcy, U.S. Navy, assisted by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Mike McGrady, read out the names of a dozen veterans whose names will now adorn the granite stones next to the Village Green gazebo, as a bell tolled for each and every one.

U.S. Air Force veteran Ed Owens delivered a potent keynote address, which cut to the heart of the reason why veterans and citizens gather to remember on Memorial Day.

"We are here because we value the principles they sacrificed their lives for," he said. "It is our way of saying thank you."

Owens, whose military service lineage can be traced back to 13th century England, noted that he attended events much like that in Sisters as a youth - but it wasn't until he served in his first combat tour during the Gulf War that he truly came to understand the deepest meanings of words like duty, honor, and sacrifice.

Serving as a first sergeant in his last combat tour in Kirkuk, Iraq in 2006, he recalled ramp ceremonies when the bodies of service members killed in action were enplaned to be returned to their families.

"I remember each ramp ceremony, and the feelings that can still be felt to this day," he said. "Like many of you here today, Memorial Day has a profound meaning felt deep in each of our souls. The freedoms we value as Americans come at a heavy price."

Owens spoke of unity and the shared values and principles that bring Americans together.

"The founding principles that created this nation, that held us together since our founding, that collectively we have fought to preserve, and that so many have fought and died for around the world are very much worth fighting for," he said.

Owens noted that the toll for America's wars is paid for years after conflict. He spoke of veteran suicides, and the suicides of loved ones of those scarred by combat and conflict. He recognized that many people - including many at the Village Green on Monday - have suffered profound loss and trauma, and urged all those in attendance to reach out to those who are hurting.

Quoting from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, he observed that those words continue to inspire us to rededicate ourselves to our status as one people, dedicated to principles of equality and freedom, not only for ourselves, but for all the peoples of the world.

He concluded with a dedication to the memory of the fallen, "to ensure that the values they died for continue to be a source of strength, inspiration and hope for generations to come. This nation cannot perish from this earth."

An honor guard fired a salute, Bugler Chris Patrick played taps, and Commander Wilson, VFW Post Commander Pat Bowe, and Sisters Band of Brothers President Jim Morrell raised the American flag from half-staff to fly proudly at the top of its pole across the Village Green.

Commander Wilson offered his closing remarks, and dismissed the audience to mingle and enjoy the beauty of a day that carried more profound meaning for having been there.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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