On Monday, the usually tranquil panorama of Vashon Cemetery gave way to singing, a color guard, bagpipes, taps and inspiring remarks from veterans as island families came this year to remember men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
It was a return to form after the previous year’s tribute, which was much more solemn and sparse due to gathering restrictions imposed just weeks before by Gov. Jay Inslee in the face of America’s war against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed at least 594,000 people in the United States, surpassing the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.
“We’re here today to honor our service members and to remember the sacrifices they have made in honor of duty, honor and country. We’re here to honor our heroes to remember their achievements, their courage, their dedication, and to say thank you for all their sacrifices, thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today,” said Mike Mattingly, commander of Vashon’s VFW and American Legion Post 159, addressing the crowd of who he called the patriots and family and friends of those who have nobly served.
“We have awarded many medals to soldiers, added their names to monuments, named buildings for them, to honor them for their bravery, but nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member. And no number of medals and ribbons can come for the ones that are left behind,” he said.
Lisa Devereau, director of Island Funeral Service and a Vashon Cemetery District commissioner, noted that this Memorial Day was historically significant for the community, as the War Memorial behind the day’s speakers has stood for a century, commemorating those who have died in conflicts dating back to 1861. More than 1,000 people attended the ceremony to commemorate the monument’s first placement then, which has subsequently been engraved with the names of those from Vashon who have died in wars since.
“It’s hard to believe that groups like this have been getting together every Memorial Day for that long to honor those we have lost in the service of our country,” she told the audience gathered around the monument. “So I just want to remind us all that it’s been many, many years and we still have lots to work on. So let’s all try to work together.”