Memorial Day: ‘Freedom isn’t free’

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On the grounds of the Willamette National Cemetery (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Judi VanCleave spends her Memorial Days at the Willamette National Cemetery visiting her late husband, Bill, a Korean War veteran.

She is one of thousands of Gold Star Wives, widows of a US soldier who was killed in action or other service-related deaths.

“Bill suffered so much, like many of our veterans do,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I have faith that he’s in a better place.”

Judi VanCleave is a Gold Star widow. Her husband, Bill, was a Korean War veteran. She was among thousands at Willamette National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019 (KOIN)

While Memorial Day is melancholy for her, this annual ceremony is a time of honest reflection.

“We reflect all year, we reflect when we see our kids crying or when we look through our scrap books, you know, something that can trigger a memory,” she said.

Like so many others, Judi has witnessed the ultimate sacrifice our veterans gave.

On this Memorial Day, more than 2000 people gathered near the American flags placed next to each headstone, the story of American honor and sacrifice from across the generations.

“Teach your children about the flag, the symbol, what it means,” Judi VanCleave said. “Freedom isn’t free. It really isn’t.”


There was a somber remembrance at the Vancouver barracks, a place that still retains visible reminders of the 19th and 20th century military history that took place at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Over the parade grounds, the garrison flag flew 80 feet above the grounds. The garrison flag is raised only in honor of significant national events and holidays.

The observance also involved the National Park Service cultural demonstration of the Soldiers Bivouac, which showcased costumed volunteers portraying many periods of the site’s military history.

Above all it is a remembrance of men and women who have fought for and died in service to America, a poignant reminder of their sacrifice, a voice for the voiceless who’ve died in military service. 


The Oregon Air National Guard flew over the Willamette National Cemetery, Mountain View Cemetery, the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Memorial Park in Beaverton and the downtown district in Wasco.

The F-15 Eagle Fighter jets flew over Forest Lawn Cemetery in Gresham.

In Battle Ground, the annual Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Battle Ground Veterans Memorial in Kiwanis Park. 

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