WEST RICHLAND -- More 150 banners with pictures of fallen soldiers surrounded family and friends Sunday in West Richland as part of the fifth annual Time of Remembrance event recognizing men and women who gave their lives in the fight for freedom in the Middle East.
Flat Top Park was filled with patriotism and emotion as the names of more than 500 soldiers were read to a solemn audience gathered under blustery skies and a massive U.S. flag that fluttered from a pair of fire department ladder trucks.
"Our fallen bothers and sisters, sons and daughters represent the very best of America," said Brig. Gen. Brett Daugherty, commander of the Washington Army National Guard.
"They offered themselves as shields for America and we are forever in their debt. Our presence here today guarantees that we have not forgotten them," Daugherty said.
The remembrance event, which began Saturday evening with a candlelight ceremony, brought together family of soldiers from throughout Washington and neighboring states. Each of the 3-by-5-foot banners had a life-size picture of a fallen soldier from Washington, with his name, rank, the date that he died in combat and his hometown.
Kim Cole of Spokane came up with the idea for a banner for her son, Darrel James Morris, a Marine corporal who died Jan. 21, 2007.
Cole and another mother from Spokane had banners made for the 2007 remembrance. It was so well received that Cole decided every fallen soldier should have one, even if it had to come from her own finances.
But a state ladies veterans group joined in raising support the banners as a project.
Cole said she contacted a company in Spokane to produce the banners.
Members of the Richland VFW Post 7952 posted colors and the Kennewick VFW Post 5785 provided the military gun firing and taps at the ceremony's conclusion.
The roll call of fallen soldiers constituted the majority of Sunday's program. Family members stood and remained standing as their loved one, a fallen soldier, had his name and military rank recited.
"This shows that these are kids in your community, and to remember them," said Cole.
"For every parent who has participated in this, they are blown away that there are so many people who care about their sacrifice," she added.
"It's a group nobody wants to belong to but thank God we're there. Who would better understand than another parent who has experienced the same thing," Cole said.
Shirley Schmunk of Richland came up with the idea for Time of Remembrance about six years ago because there wasn't anything like it in Eastern Washington.
"I did it because I didn't have anybody to talk to, to be able to share my feelings," Schmunk said.
Her son, Jeremiah Schmunk, was a specialist with the Army National Guard. He died in Iraq on July 9, 2004. He was 20.
Schmunk said she is very pleased with how her idea has grown and gained so much support.
"There's a lot of pride (of family) when they hear the name and stand," she said.