ISSAQUAH, Wash — While Memorial Day is a national holiday, one veteran is reminding people to treat the solemn occasion with the respect it calls for.
VFW Post 3436 hosted an honor ceremony at Hillside Cemetary in Issaquah on Monday, with veterans, families and community leaders in attendance. More than 600 veterans are laid to rest at the cemetery, including 19 Civil War veterans.
Veterans of Foreign War Post 3436 Commander Dean Van Dyke says despite the well-intentioned comments, today is not the day to tell a veteran “Happy Memorial Day!”
Van Dyke says Veterans Day is a great time to thank vets but Memorial Day isn’t a day of celebration.
“Today is the day to honor those who sacrificed everything and only came home in a flag-dropped coffin,” said Van Dyke.
Van Dyke said even close friends of his have made the mistake of wishing him a happy Memorial Day, and he wants to encourage more people to honor the true meaning behind the day.
“We know it’s a day off from work and people think of family and barbecue so it’s easy to associate today with a happy family holiday but it’s really emotional for a lot of veterans and families who are remembering their fallen hero today," Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke said the VFW started after World War I and specifically serves veterans who actively served in a conflict.
“Whether it’s WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq, we have members across the board,” Van Dyke said.
VFW Post 3436 Service Officer David Waggoner said the Hillside service has had a historical significance, and honors veterans known to many in attendance, including his high school principal and teacher who are both buried at the cemetery and also a local veteran he knew growing up.
“He was a Korean war veteran who drove a maintainer for King County," Waggoner said. "When I got back from the Army he told me to take care of this post and make sure it lasts so that’s what we’re out here doing!”
Each year members of the VFW Post 3436 place flags at the marker for each fallen veteran and return to retrieve them before sundown.
Those with the VFW want to emphasize that Veterans Day is to honor those who previously served, Armed Forces Day is a chance to celebrate active members in uniform and Memorial Day is when we remember those who died fighting for our freedom.