Ron Clyborne and Maria Montalvo open the dedication ceremony for the Edmonds Veterans Plaza on Monday. Hundreds of people turned out for the event. Clyborne and Montalvo helped lead the group of volunteers that oversaw the three-year project. (Dan Catchpole / The Herald)

‘Pause and reflect’: Edmonds Veterans Plaza dedicated

EDMONDS — Hundreds of people came out Monday afternoon for the dedication of the Edmonds Veterans Plaza in the city’s downtown.

The plaza’s sweeping open space is interspersed with planters and benches, offering passerby a spot to sit. The rainy winter delayed construction. Some work remains to be finished.

“This setting is a place for us to pause and reflect, a place for us to remember the sacrifices of those men and women” who died serving the United States, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling told the crowd.

While the site was unveiled on Memorial Day, the plaza is dedicated to all veterans. Indeed, the idea for the plaza came three years ago, when Jim Traner realized that despite being one of the county’s largest cities, Edmonds had no monument recognizing the men and women who had served in the U.S. armed services.

Traner and Ron Clyborne, both Vietnam War veterans, set to work to make the memorial a reality. They brought in others, and the project became a collaborative effort between the city, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8870 and American Legion Post 66. Many more individuals and community organizations joined or contributed to the effort.

The plaza steering committee leading the effort raised nearly $700,000 — the vast majority of it from local donors. The group is still raising money to finish a few last elements for the plaza. A local group called Off-Leash Edmonds Area is raising money to pay for a statue commemorating war dogs.

The recently retired Lt. General Robert Otto told the crowd “we should be thankful for the Americans who served,” especially those who died during their service.

Those killed during wartime are almost always young and “in the prime of their life,” said Otto, who spent more than 30 years in the Air Force.

Their deaths leave lives unlived, he said. “Our pledge must be to remember their sacrifice.”

Michael Reagan, who served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam, called the plaza a place for healing.

He recalled an attack he survived in 1968. His unit’s position was shelled by Viet Cong troops ahead of a massed attack. When the barrage let up, he and other Marines rushed out to help the wounded.

Among the dead was Peder Armstrong. He and Reagan had gone to high school together in Seattle. Armstrong died two days before his 19th birthday, according to federal records available from the U.S. National Archives.

His name and the names of other men Reagan served with are on paving stones at the plaza.

He returned home to a country bitterly divided over the war in Vietnam and neighboring countries. “Then I ran from being a Vietnam vet as fast as I could, because I still had a life to live,” he said.

Since then, he has found solace in painting portraits of men and women who died during military service and giving the painting to their families. His Fallen Heroes Project started with American service members and has branched out to other nations.

Speaking at the dedication, Reagan told the crowd, “Today, I feel like I am home.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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