Island marks Memorial Day

"Freedom isn't free."

At a Memorial Day service at the Bayview Cemetery Monday, this was the idea Monte Wolf, a retired Army major, wanted observers to take home with them.

South Whidbey residents, including some decorated war veterans, gathered Monday at the cemetery to remember the men and women who gave their lives for the freedom of our nation. Put on by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7482 in Clinton and American Legion Post 141, the Memorial Day Service began with marching veterans, flags and a steady drumbeat provided by South Whidbey High School student Roy Gabelein.

Attendees, some clasping small American flags, gathered close to the podium in the center of the cemetery as Glenn Nichols opened the service. A solemn prayer was said, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of "God Bless America." Meanwhile, the nation's flag governing the gentle cemetery rested at half-mast upon its pole.

Wolf, a Clinton resident, enhanced this year's service as he administered a memorial address. He told the audience the holiday held extra significance this year in the aftermath of Sept. 11, as well as a refreshed realization of how war can change a nation.

"Unfortunately for veterans throughout history, we've seen the tragedy," he said. "I am a veteran of Vietnam and it hasn't made me special, but it has given me a different perspective."

Some of those gathered took some time to think over Wolf's words and the events of the day. After the ceremony, they dispersed slowly, with many paying visits to the graves of friends and family.

Clinton's Nancy Johnson was one of the people remembering lost loved ones.

"The sacrifices that veterans have made over the years is so admirable," Johnson said. "We owe them a great debt."

Grace Claus and her husband, Chuck, came to Bayview to remember friends they lost. Grace Claus was a "Rosy the Riveter" during World War II, working in a factory while her husband served in the Navy.

Both had reason to celebrate being survivors.

"I remember my husband's submarine had been blown up, with none surviving, though he was not on board that day," Claus said.

The ambiance of that morning was not that of woe and brooding, however. It was, instead, a time of respect and appreciation for those who had made it possible for Americans to breathe the air of freedom. This was another point Wolf gave attention to in his address.

"I truly believe from my experience in leading men in combat that they would not want us to grieve, but to remember," he said. "That is truly what these veterans would have wanted. We must not fail them."

The service concluded with a prayer for those on active duty, as well as a rifle salute followed by Scott Watts playing "Taps" on trumpet.

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