Those who fought and died for freedom are remembered
By KARL SCHWEIZER
EVERETT — As ground was broken on a national monument to World War II veterans in Washington, D.C., local veterans and well-wishers held their own services right here at home.
Pastor Ernest Hastings spoke to about two dozen people who filed into Cypress Lawn Memorial Park Saturday for the cemetery’s first-ever Veterans Day ceremony, conducted in conjunction with the national one in the nation’s capital.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to veterans and to God," said Hastings, himself a World War II veteran.
Veterans faced unbelievable hardships in lands they never dreamed they would see, Hastings said. Without their sacrifices, Americans would not enjoy the freedom to choose their religion, their goals in life, where to live, whom to vote for, and "a hundred other freedoms," he said.
Americans must continue to be willing to live, and die, for their freedom, he said.
As he finished speaking, two volunteers released 50 red and blue balloons, one for each state. Bystanders watched the balloons rise and vanish into an icy sky as Benjamin Baird, a sailor on the USS Fife in Everett, played taps.
Everett resident Randi Rittel seemed to appreciate the sight. She came to Cypress Lawn to lay flowers at the graves of a brother, an uncle, an aunt, a cousin and her parents.
Rittel’s brother, father and uncle were all veterans. Her father, sent to fight in Europe, and her uncle, who fought the Japanese, both made it back from World War II. Her brother, a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, didn’t make it back. His helicopter was shot down in 1967.
"That was a sad one," Rittel said.
He was 22. She was 16 at the time.
Saturday’s ceremony was the first Veterans Day service at Cypress Lawn, but won’t be the last, said general manager Cheryl Kuss.
Employees decided to offer one two weeks ago, when the National Funeral Directors Association put out a call for names of both civilians and military veterans who had played a role in World War II. Many of the names have been lost over time, Kuss said. Cypress Lawn and many other cemeteries and funeral homes are collecting the names.
The names will be added to a registry on permanent public display in Washington, D.C. Registration is free.
The Herald/ELIZABETH ARMSTRONG
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