The Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis drew a small crowd Monday afternoon under a half-mast flag to honor fallen soldiers.
Last year, the event was canceled due to COVID-19, and this year, precautions meant the memorial was held at the museum rather than the Claquato Cemetery, although Boy Scouts still fulfilled the annual tradition of placing flags on veterans’ graves.
The event this year started with a prayer by Museum Director Chip Duncan, who went on to read a pledge written by Army National Guard Private Martin Treptow, a young World War I soldier whose diary was recovered after his death.
“He wrote, ‘America must win this war. Therefore, I will work. I will save. I will sacrifice. I will endure. I will fight cheerfully to do my utmost, as if the very issue of this whole struggle depended on me alone,’” Duncan read.
The museum’s own pledge — “They shall not be forgotten,” emblazoned on the building’s exterior — stood next to Duncan and the audience.
“Though the memory of Private Treptow has fallen from our memories, millions of men and women have entered into the service of the armed forces since 1775, to this very day. And each one of them has worked tirelessly. They’ve saved. They’ve gone without resources or embraces of family. They’ve endured hardship, both on and off the battlefields, yet they still fight for our freedoms. As if the entire struggle of this nation's existence depended squarely on their soldiers,” Duncan said.
Heather Kaiser, an Army major who served for 11 years and spent a total of 24 months deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, also spoke, chronicling the number of colleagues and friends she had lost, and the guilt survivors often experience.
“Memorial Day is the day when we truly pause, though I would say every day is a memorial for most of us,” Kaiser said. “And when I say that, I mean that some aspect of our fellow warriors’ sacrifice is embedded into our brains, and we live life with that person in our mind on a regular basis.”
Kaiser also spent time honoring the late Shannon Kent, a senior chief petty officer in the Navy whose children were in attendance Monday. In 2019, Kent became the first U.S. female combat death in Syria.
“Many of her close friends live by a mantra of ‘what would Shannon do?’” Kaiser said.
Memorabilia from Kent’s memorial service was offered to the public at the event as a way for individuals to carry Kent’s story with them.
“The greatest way we can honor them is to always honor their legacy, tell their stories and serve their families. Never let them be forgotten,” Kaiser said.
Names from the museum’s “Tree of Life” were read out, and Scout Troop 373 assisted local veterans in placing their wreaths below the half-mast flag.