Saturday, June 19, 2021

East Hope honors veterans in wall dedication

Staff Writer | June 1, 2021 1:00 AM

EAST HOPE — A few years ago, the city received a bequest to beautify the community.

That, Mayor Vernon Fleisher told the several hundred gathered to dedicate the city's Veteran Memorial Wall. The bequest from the Helen Anderson estate became the catalyst for what is the centerpiece of the city's new park.

Built on land leased from the railroad, Fleiser told those gathered the city wanted to do something special, something to honor the soldiers from the area who have served in defense of the country.

From landscape architect Cindy Gauthier to Ian and Cheryl Barrett to members of the city council and countless volunteers, the result is a roadside park with the memorial wall at its heart.

"We are here today to not only honor veterans with this wall, but also those who have served our country in the past and are no longer with us," Fleisher said.

Veteran Walt Fraser, asked by the mayor to speak about the wall, said he was humbled by both the request and the community's decision to build a wall to honor area veterans — those from the Idaho-Montana border to the Pack River area.

"What I think about this, the first thing I think about is the people that aren't able to be here that are listening now," Fraser, who served as a pilot in Vietnam. "And hoping that, at least I hope, these words have some meaning to them."

While some of the names now etched on the wall were called to serve and others volunteered, they all have the same thing in common — a dedication to the country's freedoms and a determination to preserve those freedoms through their service, Fraser said.

"What I think about this, the first thing I think about is the people that aren't able to be here that are listening now," he said. "And hoping that, at least I hope, these words have some meaning to them.

"So I ask you, whether you drive by this memorial, walk by it, or stop and visit it. Remember those that serve because they served for you. Tell your children, help them to understand the freedoms they enjoy, came at a price paid by many. Look upon this memorial and our flag with respect and love. In these challenging times, never forget, we are one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all. Preserve it, honor it for those that follow."

Fraser paused, waiting for the noise from a passing train to die down, then relayed how the real meaning of serving was brought home during a military service. After he and two other soldiers finished folding a flag, Fraser walked over to the widow of a good friend and presented her with it.

"When I gave it to her, looking at the emotion in her face and the tears in her eyes, I understood what real service that this country means," he said. "So I ask all of you today, if you have a moment, take a moment out today sometime and think of the men and women that are in service to us now."

That message was echoed by members of the Clark Fork Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion chapters.

"We are assembled here to pay tribute to the men and women of our community who have served the United States armed forces, our neighbors who have fought in defense of this country, and for the preservation of our way of life," said the members. "Those men and women are worthy of far greater recognition than mere words or markers. The sacrifices they made and the deeds they performed shall be written in history, and shall remain alive in our memories for generations to come. We express sincerely our pride and gratitude for the task they fulfilled."

They asked those gathered to look at the flag and remember that the white symbolizes the purity of purpose in our freedom of thought, expression and worship; that the red symbolizes the courage of those who stand for its freedoms and the blue symbolizes the tranquility upon which the stars of the stands are united to hold intact the desire for peace, prosperity and happiness.

"We have come here to dedicate a roll of honor, naming the men and women of our community who went forth leaving strength in our flag, United States armed forces on land, sea and in the air," they said. "Some of them did not return. They are honored dead who are resting places are found in many foreign lands and waters of the globe. These American defenders left our schools, our shops, and our farms to take up weapons against foes. They left their peacetime pursuits with confidence in their hearts and assurance upon their lips. They were aware of the dangers before them, and they responded without hesitation to the call of duty."