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Memorial Day: North Kitsap honors the nation's war dead May 30

POULSBO — Poulsbo honors the nation's war dead Monday, May 30 with a flag-raising, wreath laying and plaque dedication.

The observances begin at 10 a.m. at Poulsbo City Hall. A large U.S. flag presented by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2463 will be raised. Mayor Becky Erickson will give a speech — the same memorable speech as last year, she said, because “I spoke from the heart.”

Then, the observance moves to Kvelstad Pavilion at Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park. At noon, Naval Base Kitsap Marine Color Guard will present the colors. A wreath will be laid on the water to remember the Navy dead. The old National Guard Armory plaque, which contains the names of 32 men who died in uniform, will be rededicated.

Here is Erickson’s Memorial Day speech:

MAYOR BECKY ERICKSON
MEMORIAL DAY SPEECH

Today is Memorial Day. First I want to thank everyone for having me here to speak. It is a great honor. I am here today in abject humility. Humility, because I am not a veteran.

My father is a WWII vet. He didn’t get drafted right away because he was working in a defense plant: working on the B17 line in Renton. He was a riveter, my Mom was a bucker. A bucker was a person that held the steel bar behind the rivet so it mushroomed as it went through the plane walls. They met in the early days of WWII, building B17s.

My Dad didn’t speak much about his WWII experience. I know that he was all over the world because I grew up looking at the pictures of Egypt and China that he took during his service. But he didn’t talk very much about it. I think he might have had a pretty rough time. So he was really never very forthcoming about what he did during the war. My uncle Frank was at Guadalcanal, a Marine on the beach. He was never the same when he came home from war.

My experience with veterans really started with the Viet Nam war, which was my war, the war of my generation. It was a horrible war. It was a tough war. It was a war that fundamentally changed our country. A war that many will dispute and discuss for years to come. This was my first real exposure to service and sacrifice. Service and sacrifice. That is what Memorial Day is about. It is about those people that gave it all. And when they gave it all. It is about our obligation to remember and to acknowledge that total level of service that they have given to our country. It is important! It is important that we always remember those that went away to war and never came home — that are buried in battlefields all around the globe — defending my freedom. My freedom!

One of the things that I think we all need to understand is this should be a very personal day. A very personal day for everyone here because without that level of service and sacrifice we would have a fundamentally different country. That level of service allows us to be free — free so we can live our lives and make our everyday choices of our everyday lives, raise our children the way choose, help our parents the way we choose, ask our elected representatives to do our bidding, say what we want when we choose, live our lives as we choose. Choice is the essence of freedom! As we decide — as we decide! They gave us this gift of immense of proportion. And we are rare in this world that we have this level of freedom. And it needs to be guarded continually. This level of freedom is so precious. And their gift was so immense. The only reason why we have our freedom, ultimately, is because there are those amongst us that went out and served and sacrificed. Yes, this should be a very personal day.

There are many in the audience today that went out and served and sacrificed, and you are the lucky ones. You came home. You came home to your Mom and Dad, your children, your spouses, your way of life. I would submit to you that you were fundamentally changed by your experience in war. But you came home. There were some that served with you that did not come home. They paid the ultimate price so you could come home — so you could come home to your wives and children, so you could come home and live free in this country.

Today, we remember those that did not come home. We remember them in three different ways. With gratitude ... obviously we remember them with gratitude. We must be eternally grateful for the full measure of devotion that they gave to us. And yes, we remember them in sadness. We miss what we love and when they are taken from us. But I think we need to remember them in one more way. We need to remember them in joy. Everyone that did not come home had a family, a mother and father who loved them and treasured them. And those that pass from us we should always remember in sadness, because we miss them but also in joy for who they were. We should remember who they were as human beings and treasure them. We should celebrate their lives. And celebrate their sacrifice.

One of the remarkable things about the Viet Nam Memorial — "the Wall" — is that it is a collection of individual names (58,195), a statement of individual souls, each one unique gathered together on a simple black wall of granite. It is a collection of all those individually that gave their lives. We need to celebrate their lives and celebrate that sacrifice. We should be joyful about our freedom and we should be joyful about who they were as people. We should remember them all, thanking them with humility, with pride, with honor and with joy. Our memories of the fallen should always be in sadness and joy for who they were, each one unique making a sacrifice for us.

And this continues today: 1,000 have died in Afghanistan. Remember them. Honor them. Love them in sadness. Celebrate who they were and what they gave to us.

Before this speech, I did a little bit of research about Memorial Day and I found out some history, how it came about. It came after the Civil War, the truly great American war, the war that cost 625,000 Americans their lives. It was a horrible war — it pitted brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, family against family. It was an all American war. It’s when our country shifted from its infancy to its adulthood. It was a great shift. Yes, we were born in freedom. Yes, we were born out of revolution to be free. But until the Civil War we really never understood the cost of that freedom. What it meant to stand up amongst all the nations of the world and say that we are a nation of free people and we are willing to give the last full measure of what we are in order to sustain that freedom — we will not tolerate the inequality of slavery. We are free, a nation of free people. And we will be that nation in its greatness.

It was a long war, and at the end of that war, Abraham Lincoln gave a great speech on the battlefield of Gettysburg, and we remember it today. Listen to the end of Lincoln’s great speech. It says:

"that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom;
and that government of the people, by the people,
for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

"These dead shall not have died in vain ... so that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Freedom shall not perish from this earth ... people have given their lives so that freedom shall survive. We should never forget these words. This is who we are ... it is part of our national conscience. Sacrifice, service, the ultimate level of devotion so that we might be free.

In closing, I would like to say, thank you to everyone in this audience today. Thank you for your service, the level of your honor and responsibility that you show to all of us. Thank you ... it will not be forgotten ... it cannot be forgotten because it is who we are as a people.

Yes, freedom shall not perish from this earth. Today we remember, honor and celebrate all those that paid the ultimate price for us to be free.

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