HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. (KOIN) — Every day is a day to honor the servicemen and women at Willamette National Cemetery despite the cancellation of the cemetery’s flagship Memorial Day ceremony due to the pandemic.
“It was very disappointing. This is the second year we were not able to have our service due to the coronavirus,” said Jared Howard, the cemetery’s director and Army veteran.
Howard says the cemetery still holds 15 ceremonies a day for fallen service members from every military branch.
“For me, it’s gratitude for what they did — it’s pride,” he said.
Willamette, established in 1949, is one of 155 national cemeteries across the nation. 2021 marks the 70th anniversary of the first military interment. Today, 185,000 veterans and family members are interred on the 300 meticulously maintained acres of land.
The cemetery also houses the Oregon Korean War Memorial. The Korean War claimed the lives of 269 Oregonians. It was still raging as Willamette National Cemetery had its first interment in 1951.
“And so that conflict — that war — and this cemetery were happening at the same time, so it’s kind of the foundation of the history of this cemetery,” said Howard.
Susan Rouw’s father served in Korea and World War II. Her husband Mike’s father and his uncle are also buried at Willamette.
“Every time I come up here, it puts a lump in your throat,” said Mike Rouw.
A section of the cemetery honors four Medal of Honor recipients from Oregon and Vancouver, all of whom served in the Army: First Lieutenant Arnold Bjorkland (WWII), Master Sergeant Stanley Adams (Korea), Specialist 4th Class Larry Dahl (Vietnam) and Sergeant 1st Class Loren Kaufman (Korea).
“We’re honoring their legacy, we’re continuing to tell their story,” said Howard.
Theirs are among the thousands of stories of sacrifice and valor at Willamette National Cemetery where Memorial Day is every day.
In the absence of a Memorial Day service this year, the cemetery invites the public to visit their website to honor fallen veterans.