Memorial Day in Portland saw clear skies and temperatures in the low to mid 90s. It’s not surprising with weather like this, that Memorial Day has come to be recognized as the un-official opening to summer. Schools and many businesses close and the day is marked with cookouts, and camping. However, the true significance of the day runs far deeper than a day off from work; it is about what President Abraham Lincoln described as, “the last full measure of devotion.” Taking a stroll through the Portland Cemetery, it is clear that this devotion has been a prominent feature of this community since its founding.
Here in Portland, local veterans organizations were in preparation for the Memorial Day commemorations for some time. Late last week those preparations kicked into high gear with the posting of flags at the veterans’ organizations’ shared meeting hall and the local cemetery. According to Legionnaire Roy Schrauben, “every year members of the American Legion...and VFW place approximately 125 to 150 flags in the memory of veterans buried here in Portland.” The flags are hard to miss driving down Bridge Street. What many may not know though, is that those flags are more than merely a symbol of our country. According to Mr. Schrauben, “Most are the actual burial flags that originally covered their caskets.”
In addition, the VFW and Legionnaires organized and let the community commemoration of Memorial Day. The event began at 10:00 AM at the Veterans Memorial Bridge with the laying of a memorial wreath on the Grand River by the VFW Auxiliary. The color guard led the procession up Bridge street to Lehman Funeral Home where a wreath of poppies was laid at the World War II memorial. The procession paused at the intersection of Bridge Street and Smith Street while the bells of the local churches were rung in observance of the occasion. From there the parade proceeded to Portland Cemetery accompanied by the assembled crowd that numbered in the hundreds.
At the cemetery, remarks were made by VFW and American Legion leaders. As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the event especially highlighted area servicemen who died in that conflict. The names of more than a dozen local boys who died in WWI were read accompanied by the sounding of a bell. A costumed reenactor representing local WWI soldier, Dale Hyland spoke sharing some of his experiences in the War. Hyland was the first Portland boy to die in WWI and is buried in Portland Cemetery. The local American Legion post is named in his honor. The Portland High School Band played several patriotic selections. In closing VFW Post Commander Bill Almy, challenged those in attendance to, “take the time to remind others what this holiday is really about.”
Participants in the day’s events included the VFW, VFW Auxiliary, American Legion, Knights of Columbus, Portland High School Band, local Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, and the Portland Police Department.
PHOTOS: Photos of decorating the cemetery courtesy of Roy Schrauben. All other photos by Jordan Smith.