South Whidbey remembers America’s fallen with Memorial Day services

South Whidbey Boy Scout Troop 57 members Liam Henny

Clinton resident Roy Simmons will never forget 1945. He was 8 years old, and his older brother Stanley was overseas fighting in World War II.

Like many young men at the time, Stanley had been eager to serve his country and dropped out of Langley High School to enlist. He said goodbye to his family, and was shipped off to fight in the Pacific Theater.

They never saw him again. Stanley died at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was 18. Simmons still remembers the day he got the news.

“We were off in the woods someplace when my mother hollered,” Simmons recalled. “It was tough on my folks when he was killed.”

Stanley’s sacrifice, and that of 1.35 million other men and women who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces, were honored by about 220 South Whidbey residents on Monday at two separate Memorial Day services at the Clinton and Bayview cemeteries. Attendees ranged from veterans and their families to a motorcycle club, members of Armstrong’s Taekwondo, a boy scout troop and active military members.

The Clinton service, which was saw a turnout of about 80 people, began with an invocation by Pastor Mikkel Hustad, followed by the raising of the flag by members of Boy Scout Troop 57 and a presentation of colors by a Naval Air Station Oak Harbor honor guard.

The crowd then sang the national anthem, heard from leaders of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was led by Jim and Betty Lightner in a singing of “God Bless America.”

Retired Navy Cmdr. David Campbell, the keynote speaker, talked about the history behind, and the purpose of Memorial Day — that it’s about reflecting on America’s fallen and the “tremendous sacrifices” made.

“It’s an honor to remember those folks today,” Campbell said.

One of the more touching parts of the service followed Campbell’s address when the names of 67 men buried at the Clinton cemetery were read aloud. With each name, a bell was rung. All were veterans, but according to Simmons, who is also the cemetery district president, his brother Stanley is the only person he knows of who was killed in combat.

Many at Monday’s ceremony, however, know the loss of war, men like Langley resident Dean Campbell. He spent 15 months fighting in the Korean War.

“I lost some buddies in Korea,” the Korean War veteran reflected.

Memorial Day and ceremonies like the one in Clinton are special because they are a chance to remember, he added.

The service in Bayview could not be attended by a Record reporter due to both events being held at 11 a.m., but Kevin McDonald, commander of South Whidbey American Legion Post 141, said a record crowd of about 140 showed up.

“I heard people say it was the biggest crowd in 10 years,” McDonald said. “It was amazing.”

Led by the Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corps League Detachment 1210, the keynote speaker was Dave Sullivan, a retired military intelligence officer. Post chaplain Darrell Wenzek gave a prayer and Herb Weissblum read his poem “Our Heroes Remembered on this Memorial Day.”

Ladies Auxiliary senior Poppy Girl Krista Drechsel also spoke and junior Poppy Girl Cassidy Holmes laid the wreath. Finally, a gun salute was performed by members of the Marine Corps League.

All together, “It was just a really good show,” McDonald said.