Armed Forces members memorialized at Gateway service

This annual service captures the spirit of this holiday weekend. Take a look and remember why call this holiday Memorial Day

To start the service, the color guard from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 418 performs a flag ceremony.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
By modern-day standards, the event being held by Oregon Baptist Retirement Homes – just off NE Weidler St., in the Gateway District – might be considered to be quaint or nostalgic.

To those of us who attend today, May 23, it is a good reminder, as the Memorial Day holiday weekend gets underway.

When graced by moderate weather, they hold the entire service outside, near the flagpole. The service starts of with the Honor Guard from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 418 performing a flag ceremony. The “post the colors”, run the flag to half-mast as a bugler plays Taps, and run the flag up to the top of the pole once again.

Inverness Jail Chaplain Ted Wolcheck presents a Memorial Day message at Oregon Baptist Retirement Homes.

Due to the rain, the group retires to a meeting hall and listens as former military chaplain, Ted Wolcheck, and currently chaplain at Inverness Jail, delivers this heart-felt message:

“The first job I had when I arrived in Vietnam, so many years ago, was when 70 troopers from the [unit called the] Big Red One were ambushed and died. There was a big circle with the rifles with bayonets and boots in helmets of those who were killed. The thought that came to me was from Psalms 1:39:

‘Oh Lord you searched me and know me. You know what I said and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar.’

“I think David, the Psalmist gives us an idea that we are thinking people, and appreciative people. We value life; we value service — yesterday and today.

“Today, we’ve stopped to recall what others have done for us. From the time of World War I, we have been involved in bringing hope to people who’ve been really brutalized and overrun by evil regimes. A society that is unable to accept this responsibility – to people who are suffering – is a cruel and inhuman society. This we are not.

“When America decides to help people in Europe, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq or Afghanistan – it seems that public opinion sways us to selfish conclusions: that we must withdraw. But, even if our efforts only bring a glimpse of hope to the oppressed, we have acted in the spirit of our forefathers.

“The veterans, who have brought hope to others, will never be forgotten.

“When I first visited Normandy and walked through the American Cemetery there, I was overwhelmed, with pride, for America. Sometimes we fail to remember just what these special people have done for us.

“I’m the chaplain at Inverness Jail. [As I say this] I am admitting that I am politically correct: Often, I reflect on just how sad it is for America to lose so many young men [in jail] to crime, drugs and other bad things. I believe if the draft were reinstated, many of these delinquents would’ve had a least two years of discipline to grow up as serve our great country.

Chaplain Wolcheck tells the gathering why he’s proud to be an American who is proud to have served his country in the Armed Forces.

“Every generation of Americans has to make their contribution to a greater America; and, to keep the flame of hope burning in our hearts. We are Americans, under God, who has blessed us with super abundance. The capacity to suffer for the sake of others is the measure of humanity.

“The true stars of our country are not in Hollywood. They are individuals who are serving their beloved country in the armed forces. For those who care for those who can’t win their own freedom, or take care of themselves, our history says we do so.

“I believe we need a new spelling of the word America. It is H-O-P-E.

“I salute all who gave their best to keep us free. God bless America.

Armed Forces veterans stand and are recognized for their contribution to freedom at the service.

After he concluded his talk, the chaplain asked all those who served in military service stand and be recognized. They were greeted with applause.

We wish you, our reader, a pleasant Memorial Day weekend.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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