Short Stories by Pat Nelson

Eagle's Eye View


May 31, 2007

The patriotic holiday Memorial Day is observed in many ways. For some, it marks the beginning of a season of camping and picnicking. For others, it is a day to decorate the gravesites of loved ones with flowers.

This holiday originated on May 5, 1868. Its purpose was to honor the Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War, which had ended three years earlier. After World War 1, it was expanded to honor all Americans who had lost their lives in military action.

Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day because graves of the war dead were decorated with flowers. So that flowers to use in decorating the gravesites would be blooming all over the country, it was decided to move the date of the holiday to May 30.

When Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, the date was again changed, this time to the last Monday in May, ensuring a three-day weekend. Some people disagree with the change of dates, saying a long weekend makes it more difficult for people to remember the true meaning of the holiday.

Even though many Americans use the three-day break from work to go camping or picnicking, all Americans are encouraged to pause each Memorial Day for one minute at 3 PM Eastern Daylight Time to remember our nation’s soldiers and fallen heroes.

Members of Woodland’s Church of the Nazarene and VFW Post 1927 joined together Monday, May 28 to remember the true meaning of the holiday. The church kept up its four-year tradition of hosting a Memorial Day observation in downtown Woodland. The event was held near the Veterans’ Monument at City Hall.

"The street was closed, chairs were set up, and the whole community was invited," said Pastor Lynn Ford. "Washington State Senator Joseph Zarelli was the main speaker and Representatives Richard Curtis and Ed Orcutt also spoke," Ford added.

At 11:05 AM, two jets from the Oregon Air National Guard flew by. The VFW provided a color guard and 21-gun salute.

Darrell Joy of the VFW said, "We placed 200 flags at cemeteries from Woodland to Cougar." The VFW also lined the field at Horseshoe Lake Park with 104 flags. At 2:00, there were 55 cars in the park, lining the parking spaces outside the flagged area. Families picnicked, youngsters played on the playground, people fished, and a few brave souls swam or played in the water on bright inflatables.

A steady breeze blew the flags towards I-5 and covered the lake’s surface with wrinkles. People walked leisurely and ducks swam. A dog played at the edge of the lake, wading just enough to let his belly drag in the cool water before shaking and sending the ducks gliding in the other direction.

Folding chairs and stack chairs lined the beach for the lazy afternoon; a pair of yellow kayaks moved gracefully through the water; a boy on shore enjoyed a piggy-back-ride; a white airplane took off from the Woodland airport; travelers on the freeway headed home.

While all this was happening, a Bald Eagle, symbol of our freedom, sat proudly on the bent-over top of a nearby Fir tree, where he watched from his high vantage point.

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