Memorial Day participants say it's all about remembering sacrifices

lpemberton@theolympian.comMay 28, 2013 

Monday was a busy and solemn day on Washington’s Capitol Campus, which is home to several veterans monuments.

People laid down flowers, took pictures of granite tiles with engraved names of loved ones and attended services that paid homage to all of the American service men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s to remember all of the veterans,” said Keith Henderson, 50, of Yelm. “To not forget.”

He was one of hundreds of people who attended Olympia Rolling Thunder’s annual service at the Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Despite the rain, the event drew a sea of black leather-clad bikers from around the region.

“I’m just here to remember my veterans,” said Ron Lamson, 63, of Auburn, a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

Meantime, Butch Ayala stood guard at the Capitol’s World War II Memorial. He was dressed in an 82nd Airborne paratrooper’s uniform

The 50-year-old Tumwater resident served 20 years in the Army, and he’s part of Friends of Willie & Joe, a World War II living history group.

Ayala’s uniform included dog tags without a name.

“I’m representing all of them — so there’s no name,” he said. “It’s my way of saying thanks. They gave up all of their weekends. I can give up one weekend, too.”

Earlier in the day, organizers estimated about 300 people attended a service in the Capitol Rotunda sponsored by the Thurston County Veterans Council. The event featured patriotic music by the American Legion Department of Washington Band, a cannon salute, a rifle salute and speeches by high school students and Col. Kenneth Kamper, commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 17th Fires Brigade.

Kamper said a growing number of people view Memorial Day as a three-day weekend or a time for shopping instead of a time to remember those who died in service of their country.

He told the story of Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain who died in captivity in Korea.

“He carried a Bible and holy water,” Kamper said. “Those (were) the weapons he carried in battle, and they were very powerful.”

Kapaun is credited with saving hundreds of soldiers during the Korean War, and his actions earned him the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor.

“I ask you to carry on his memory and the memory of those like him,” Kamper said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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