Memorial Day service at Everett cemetery a salute to the fallen

EVERETT — Each banner represented a family. A sacrifice. A loss.

About 75 people gathered late Monday morning for a Memorial Day ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery on Broadway in Everett.

The rain broke just in time, as veterans, spouses, children and grandchildren came together to remember and honor those lost.

The event was organized by local groups including the Everett Elks, Everett Eagles, Sons of Norway, Fleet Reserve Association Branch 170 and the VFW.

The walkway was lined with banners, each holding the photo and name of a man or woman from Washington or who was stationed here when they died.

The banners are presented in up to a half-dozen local parades a year, said Nancy Wolke, the Elks treasurer.

“Our whole purpose is to honor the soldiers, each and every one of them, and let their families know we won’t forget them and the sacrifice they made,” she said.

Girl Scout troops from Everett, Mukilteo, Redmond and Kirkland helped to hold up the banners and distribute red, white and blue flower arrangements.

The annual ceremony is meant in part to remind folks in the military that they’re appreciated, said Norma Rae Pilkenton, who helps organize the event with her husband, Brad.

Before the ceremony, Juan Orona was thinking about his brother, Tony, who was 54 when he took his own life, decades after serving overseas.

Memorial Day also is a time to remember those who served, not just those who died in combat, Juan Orona said.

“I always like to honor our fallen ones,” he said. “There’s been so many in the past few years.”

Some of Tony Orona’s ashes were taken to Kansas, where he was a deputy. A full military and police funeral is planned there as well.

Tony Orona also was a casualty of war, his brother said.

“It’s so sad that so many of our servicemen don’t get help,” Juan Orona said.

Attendees Dennis and Peggy Durr have lived in Everett more than 40 years.

She came from a family of Marines. There was plenty of good-natured ribbing when she married Dennis, an Army man, she said.

For the Durrs, Memorial Day is a family event.

Three of their grandchildren are in the Junior ROTC. Two were in the color guard for Monday’s event, and one snapped pictures.

“They all three just love the ROTC,” Peggy Durr said.

Flags flew at half-staff. In the cemetery below, families parked minivans. Children carried flowers, pulled along, holding hands. Hugs were shared.

In the ceremony, Naval Station Everett chaplain Carl Stamper led a prayer. The theme was selflessness, the selflessness it takes to secure freedom for others.

Brad Pilkenton also asked folks to remember those who served and are buried in unmarked graves.

“There’s a group of people who should never be forgotten,” he said.

Snohomish High School student and Junior ROTC cadet sergeant Jack House spoke of those lost as heroes, protectors, warriors and guides. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served. They made it back from their service.

“Not all of us are so lucky,” House said.

House shared stories of other families, families who gave sons in war.

It made him consider “just how much is given to protect us here at home from the evils the world has to offer,” he said.

Last year, House was assigned to the firing detail.

Some might assume the best part was shooting the gun, he said.

It wasn’t, not for him.

The best part, the most important part, was the salute.

He knew his salute was for the fallen.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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