Not all those honored this Memorial Day on Whidbey are members of the military.
At a gathering of about 300 people at Bayview Cemetery, guest speaker Frank Thornton of Langley paid tribute to Riley Howell, Kendrick Castillo and Lori Gilbert-Kaye.
Howell, an ROTC student, died confronting a shooter at University of North Carolina-Charlotte. At his high school in suburban Denver, Castillo, 18, faced up to a shooter about to kill other students. Gilbert-Kaye, a 60-year-old grandmother, died while protecting her rabbi at a shooting in Poway, Cali.
“We love and care for our neighbors, and we pay them respect for defending our safety and freedom,” said Thornton, a member of the Marine League of Whidbey. “When a loved one dies in combat, we also remember those left behind with the news that no one wants to hear.”
Commandant Bob Gabelein said the group, officially know as “Detachment 1451, Col. Richard ‘Buck’ Francisco Marine Corps League South Whidbey,” conducts the ceremonies every Memorial Day to “honor those who served and keep their memories alive.”
Gabelein was on active duty in Vietnam and Cambodia from 1972-76.
Another Marine League member, Ed Donery, said the “inactive Marines” raised more than $5,000 over the weekend for community projects. So far this year, the group has awarded more than $10,000 in scholarships to Whidbey graduates.
The ceremonies included distribution of red poppies to symbolize remembrance, and a 21-gun rifle salute. American Legion Riders and Boy Scouts helped stage the event.
Director Bruce Lougheed said the riders are composed of members from all military services who ride motorcycles. They are organized for services such as counseling, housing, food and funeral expenses to all veterans in need.
Thornton also reminded the audience that “men and women who serve in the military are no less committed than those who signed the Constitution to insure the enduring freedom of the country.” He spoke of the extensive military experiences of his family and the importance of keeping in contact while loved ones are deployed.