Off the Press

May 31, 2011

By Kathleen R. Merrill

Veterans have earned their place of honor

I had tears in my eyes Memorial Day as about 200 people gathered at Hillside Cemetery to honor and remember veterans.

Kathleen R. Merrill Press editor

I’ve always thought that veterans got short shrift in some respects. But on this day, those who are living, those who have passed away and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice were the focus of young and old. Thank you to everyone who turned out.

I loved seeing the people, again young and old, who have served or are serving their country, lined up in front of the crowd. It always touches my heart especially to see the men and women who served in Vietnam and World War II standing up there, saluting the flag or standing at attention.

I hope you saw our second annual section — Lest We Forget — in last week’s paper. We are continuing to collect photos of and information about people from our community who have served in all branches of the armed forces.

I love the photos of men and women, their eyes bright, their faces often young, because many of the photos we get are of people right after they joined the service. There are photos of people with tanks and planes, with buddies they had back then, some in situations the average person doesn’t encounter.

See, veterans aren’t average people, at least not in my opinion. After being told at some point in the process of joining that they may have to fight and die for their country, they sign up anyway.

Some local veterans, like former Safeway checker Michael Riste, are people you see every day. I loved chatting with Michael while he tallied my groceries every week, yet I never knew until after he passed away recently that he had served three tours of duty in Vietnam. I am sorry I never knew about or asked him about that. And I am sorry I never got to thank him for his service.

Some of the information forms people turned in for the section made me laugh. Robert Ploss, even though he flew 11 combat missions over Germany, wrote, “Somehow I never got the Good Conduct Medal!”

I think that’s a shame and I am hereby awarding him a Good Conduct Medal right now.

I was amazed at the photos people brought to us, trusting us to return them. (We do, and I try to do each one personally, thanking each veteran for his or her service.)

Two were of John Schroeder and Frank Schroeder, brothers who served in World War I. The photo of John is a beautiful, sepia-toned, head-and-shoulders studio portrait of him in his uniform. Frank’s is also sepia-toned, but it’s a fragile, crackled postcard. There he is in his uniform, including short pants and knee socks. Priceless. They are the oldest photos we’ve received in the two years we’ve been doing this section. Thanks, Sonia, for loaning them to us.

A note on one of the forms made tears fill my eyes. Nancy McEachran wrote, “I would like to add this about my father: ‘A man who loved his country.’”

Think about that. Sure, some people might join for benefits they might get, but I’d be willing to bet that most people who serve or served do love this country. I know I do.

My special thanks to Dave Waggoner, Allen Flintoft, Tom Flintoft and Steve Johnson, who have helped both years to make this section happen. And to David Hayes, our page designer, who spent hours lining up those photos so you could see our local veterans.

And if you’re a veteran, thank you for your service.

Kathleen R. Merrill: 392-6434, ext. 227, or Comment at

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