Oregon WWII memorial ceremony honors sacrifice
By CHAD GARLAND
Of the Associated Press
SALEM — At least 1,000 veterans and their families, including many World War II veterans, came to the grounds of the state Capitol on the 70th anniversary of D-Day for the dedication of a new memorial honoring Oregonians who served during the war.
Oregon's new World War II memorial that opened Friday features a 33-foot-tall granite pillar with walls listing the names of nearly 3,800 Oregonians killed in World War II. The project took five years and more than $1.2 million to complete. Construction began in February, and aside from a few minor finishing touches, it is nearly complete.
“I'm just tickled pink that I lived long enough to see it,” said Bill Markham, a WWII combat pilot and former state legislator.
Markham was among the speakers and dignitaries at the event, which included Gov. John Kitzhaber, former Gov. Ted Kulongowski, Oregon National Guard officers and Bob Maxwell of Bend, the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient.
There were also many humble war heroes in the audience, said Jim Willis, vice president of the Oregon WWII Memorial Foundation, which helped create the memorial.
“You won't know who they are,” Willis said. “They won't tell you unless you ask them.”
Frank Moore, 91, was on a beach in Normandy 70 years ago and he was supposed to be there again Friday, but instead he was in Salem wearing his Ike jacket and garrison cap. He said that as he read the names inscribed on the memorial walls, he thought about what the young men who died in the war could have contributed to society had they lived.
“These were 19-, 20-, 21-year-old kids,” Moore said. “In a matter of seconds they were gone forever.”
Roseburg resident Dirk Kruysman was 10 and living in Nazi-occupied Holland on D-Day, which he told the crowd was “the beginning of the end of a long, brutal war in Europe.”
“There are millions of people in France, Belgium and Holland who were given a chance to live again because of the blood, sweat and tears of the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the United States and Great Britain and Canada,” said Kruysman, who immigrated to Oregon with his family and served in the Oregon National Guard for 30 years.
The ceremony honored not only those Oregonians who fought overseas, but their entire generation, including those who supported the war on the home front. Willis reminded the crowd of “Rosie the Riveter” but also noted the importance of “Wanda the Welder” and “Amy the Ammunition Packer” as well.
The event may have been the last large gathering of Oregon's WWII veterans, who are in their 80s and 90s. The Veterans Administration estimates there are a little more than 1 million living WWII veterans, with around 18,000 in Oregon.
Reach reporter Chad Garland at http://www.twitter.com/chadgarland .