A sea of American flags marked where veterans have been laid to rest at Desert Lawn Memorial Park in Kennewick.
Each flag was buffeted by the wind, just as the large American flag flown at half staff as part of honoring fallen heroes on Memorial Day.
Bob Cooley, post commander for Kennewick VFW Post 5785, told about 400 people gathered Monday morning how one man showed respect for a fallen hero.
Douglas Munro of Cle Elum gave his life Sept. 27, 1942, at Guadalcanal by drawing fire so others could survive. The member of the Coast Guard later received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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Cooley said his father, a carpenter who built barracks, mess halls and whatever else the military needed, honored his friend for 40 years by raising the flag at Munro's memorial every morning and lowering it every evening.
Honoring fallen veterans is something that should happen every day, not just on Memorial Day, he said.
After all, "freedom is not free," Cooley said. "It comes with a heavy price tag."
Since World War I, the day has been dedicated to remember veterans from all wars, said Joe Lusignan, a Marine Corps veteran.
But Memorial Day has become a time when businesses offer sales and campgrounds fill up, he said.
"Are we truly a grateful nation?" he asked.
However, Lusignan, a school resource officer with the Benton County Sheriff's Office, said that when he looks at young people, he has hope.
Every year, high school graduates choose to enter the military because they want to serve, not because they lack options, he said.
And there are young people like the Young Marines who offer respect to veterans. He recalled a recent trip to Guam and Iwo Jima with veterans who fought on the island 67 years ago and some Young Marines.
He said he could see how much it meant to the veterans when, for example, one man went down to his knees on the sand of Iwo Jima, and a Young Marine helped him up.
Lusignan encouraged youths to approach veterans respectfully and veterans to share their passion and love for their country with young people.
The Columbia River Young Marines performed the Battle Cross tribute, where a rifle is placed into the ground bayonet first, with a helmet on the butt of the rifle and the boots in front of it.
Young Marines Gunnery Sgt. Brandon Gregg, who carried the rifle, said it's a moving ceremony, especially because it is still done today to honor those killed in action.
Brandon, 16, of Kennewick, joined the Young Marines at age 8 after he saw them marching in a parade. He said he enjoys being able to teach the younger members, and he plans to join the Marines after graduating from Richland High School.
On Monday, he and the members of his unit honored fallen heroes in two ceremonies in Kennewick.
The same group held a ceremony earlier Monday at Riverview Heights Cemetery in Kennewick. About 100 people attended the earlier ceremony, said Bill Letourneau, a member of the honor guard from VFW 5785.
The Richland resident said they hold a ceremony at both locations so families and friends have a chance to remember their loved ones who are fallen veterans. It was his first year as part of the honor guard.
Letourneau, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, said he plans to be a part of both ceremonies again next year to continue his show of respect for the fallen.
Before and after the ceremony, friends and family stopped at grave markers and looked at veterans' names inscribed on the memorial wall at Desert Lawn Memorial Park.
Duncan Campbell of Pasco was at Desert Lawn Memorial Park to honor his father, Don Campbell, who served in the Army in the late 1940s. Memorial Day is one of the days each year when he said he visits his father's grave.
"Everybody has lost somebody," he said.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org