In memory of the doughboys.
In memory of Pearl Harbor.
In memory of veterans’ families.
One by one, each of these phrases were said as members of the American Legion and other veterans groups presented wreaths as part of a Memorial Day ceremony at Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton.
Dozens gathered on a blustery Monday morning to remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty. A Coast Guard helicopter flyover spritzed the crowd with mist from Cemetery Lake as it dropped a wreath in remembrance to those who lost their lives at sea.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the holiday, which was originally called Decoration Day, Scott Parker reminded the crowd during his presentation. Parker spoke as the great nephew of Freeman Parker, a Clatsop County veteran who died during World War I.
“Today we pay tribute to those who bravely rose above and fought for something greater than themselves,” he said.
Parker emphasized the best way for society to pay its debt to those whose lives were lost was through education about the holiday’s purpose.
“Please don’t wish me a happy Memorial Day. There’s nothing happy about it,” he said.
Some in the crowd, like Steve Olson, come to the ceremony as a reminder of this sentiment. A member of Astoria Moose Lodge 408, Olson used to help facilitate some of the wreath ceremonies himself. Olson was dismayed that more people didn’t turn out.
“People need to remember what this day is about. It’s not just camping and barbecues,” he said.
Sue Glen, the registrar of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in Astoria, sees the ceremony as an homage to a family line that has seen combat since before the Revolutionary War.
As a wife to a service member for more than 29 years and the daughter of a Marine, Memorial Day is about remembering her roots.
“We need to remember our past to protect our future,” Glen said.
For others, the day was about one veteran in particular. In the front row reserved for those who had lost someone in the line of duty sat the family of Warrenton local David Mitts, an Army sergeant who died in 2004 while serving in Mosul, Iraq.
On the hillside sat his twin Duane Mitts, and his cousin Johnny Breitmeyer, donning a cap of David’s picture. They reminisced about his love of duck hunting, clam digging and his positive spirit.
“Being here, it’s a way to be in his presence — to honor him. This is our way of remembering him,” Breitmeyer said. “He’s truly missed. We’re very thankful he chose to go into the armed forces and give us our freedom.”
After the ceremony, the two had plans to carry on a 14-year-long tradition of having lunch at his grave.