Veterans, civilians, and politicians from the Longview area gathered as the City of Longview unveiled two granite monuments honoring Longview citizens who gave their lives in the military.
The event drew a large crowd of all ages. Speakers at the ceremony included Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, Longview Mayor Don Jensen, Police Chaplain Steve White, Longview City Manager David Campbell, retired Navy Commander Jim Stonier, and Longview resident Bill Kasch, who, according to Jensen, helped convince the city to build the monuments.
“There’s one gentleman, Bill Kasch, who really made this all happen,” the mayor said during the program. “He would come into my office unannounced, and I’d say, ‘You need to make an appointment, Bill, I’ve got things backed up.’ He would say, ‘It’ll just take me a minute,’ and half an hour later, I’d be dragging the city to give more money for these monuments.”
Cowlitz County Sherriff Mark Nelson sang “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” to bookend the event.
Although Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell weren’t present, they sent personal representatives David Hodges and Dena Horton, respectively, to speak on their behalf.
In her speech, Herrera Beutler reminded the audience of what the purpose of Memorial Day was.
“Today is a time of remembrance, and it’s a privilege to get to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” the congresswoman said during the program. “This memorial does just that: It keeps the names and the memories alive of our local heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty. From World War II on, so many individuals who’ve left this peaceful town to fight against tyranny, oppression and other threats around the world that put our way of life in jeopardy.”
Before the ceremony began, Jerry Collison, a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association, played various songs on the bagpipes, including “Amazing Grace.” He said he has relatives dating back to the Revolutionary War and the French and Indian War, and he believes events like this are good for our country’s psyche.
“(This ceremony) is about our country, and our history, and all those who fought for what we are experiencing right now,” Collison said before the event. “Although we’re in a lot of turmoil in this country and disagreement, this type of ceremony and these type of people are what draws us together. I think it brings unity to the times that we’re in.”
After the event, many came to the monuments to pay their respects to the deceased veterans. One of those people was Ada Hutson, who knew Afghanistan War veteran Mikayla Bragg. Bragg, who died in 2011, is the only name on the monument who served after Vietnam. Hutson, who worked on Bragg’s case at Fort Lewis with Casualty and Mortuary Affairs, said she was proud of Longview citizens for supporting this monument.
“It’s very simply just a recognition that our community is given more that what’s asked of it by continuing to support the families and veterans that we have in our community,” Hutson said.
During the ceremony, while the Highlands Boy Scout Troop unveiled the monuments, members of the Marine Honor Guard Mount St. Helens Detachment 889 fired three shots in salute. Audience member and Vietnam veteran Dennis Williams collapsed during the gunshots.
His wife, Vickie, said Dennis has severe post-traumatic stress that manifests itself in conversion disorder (psychological stress expressing itself physically). This situation happens frequently, according to Vickie.
During his prayer, Chaplain White honored the deceased veterans and asked for an end to all conflicts.
“May the names etched on this monument stand as a legacy, not for how people died, but rather, God, how they lived: willing to sacrifice it all in service to God and country,” White said. “Our prayer is that no more names are added to this monument, and that true peace would come to our world.”