Navy service members stand facing an American flag after it was lowered to half-mast during a ceremony held at Naval Station Everett on Thursday marking Memorial Day. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Naval Station Everett remembers and honors the fallen

Related: Where to celebrate Memorial Day in Snohomish County

EVERETT — Naval Station Everett marked Memorial Day on Thursday with a solemn ceremony to remember men and women from all branches of the military who died in the line of duty.

“While today’s event is somber, it’s also celebratory,” said Capt. Mark Lakamp, the base’s commanding officer.

That’s because the day recognizes the honor and heroism of those who sacrificed their lives, Lakamp said.

The event also marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which took place June 4-7, 1942, and turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific and allowed the U.S. to commit more forces in Europe.

The ceremony began with the the raising of the flag to half-mast and the singing of the National Anthem by Micah Adriano, a Marysville Pilchuck High School student in the JROTC program.

“The half-staff position remembers the more than 1 million men and women who gave their lives,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Roger Scott, who was the master of ceremonies.

Monica McNeal, president of the Washington chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, told the story of her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, who was killed in Afghanistan on Feb. 21, 2010. He was 19.

“That ultimate sacrifice is something we never thought would happen to us,” McNeal said.

Ward, of Redmond, was the fourth generation of his family to join the U.S. Marine Corps, and before he enlisted she reminded him that there was a war on.

“He said, ‘Yes, Mom, that’s why I have to serve,’” McNeal said.

After boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, Ward shipped out to Afghanistan on Oct. 28, 2008.

“Little did I know it would be the last time I’d see him,” she said.

Ward called home when he could and appeared with several fellow Marines in a Christmas video uploaded to YouTube in December 2009. He was wearing a Seahawks jersey, McNeal said, and she took solace that her son was scheduled to return home in May.

Instead, on Feb. 21, 2010, she arrived at work to find two Marines waiting for her in her office with the news her son had been killed.

Ward had left three requests to his mother in a sealed message before he shipped out, McNeal said. He asked her to advocate for veterans, and asked her to call attention to all fallen service members, including those who die on base or in accidents outside of combat zones.

He also asked her to continue to reach out to civilians.

“I know I’m making headway in teaching civilians what loyalty you all have, and your willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice,” McNeal said.

The event also included short presentations on the lives of four deceased service members .

One of them was Army Pvt. David H. Leap, of Marysville, who piloted drones in Afghanistan.

Leap came back from the war with PTSD and committed suicide April 11, 2015, said his father, retired Master Chief Petty Officer Henry Leap.

Henry Leap now works with Summit for Soldiers, which provides support to veterans living with PTSD and other mental health injuries through climbing and other outdoor adventure activities.

“If you have problems, talk, talk to other veterans, talk to counselors, talk,” Leap said.

The other three service members remembered were Medal of Honor recipients: Petty Officer 1st Class Elmer Charles Bigelow, who died fighting fires on the USS Fletcher off Corregidor Island in the Philippines on Feb. 15, 1945; Petty Officer 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields, who died supporting an Army Special Forces unit that came under attack in Dong Xoai, South Vietnam, on June 10, 1965; and Marine Master Sgt. Alford Lee McLaughlin, who was seriously wounded in 1952 defending an outpost in Korea, killing or wounding an estimated 200 enemy soldiers.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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