Memorial Day in the Upper Rogue Valley

Old Glory festooned byways throughout parts of Eagle Point and White City on May 31. The brightness of the colors provided a stark contrast against the low hovering  dark cloud cover. Even sparse sprinklings of  rain, failed to dampen local annual tributes to our fallen service men and women at Eagle Point National Cemetery.  Nor did it obscure the program’s most unique feature, a flyover of WWI vintage biplanes for which the Cemetery staff credited White City’s Bob Burrill.

Director Jerry Rainey welcomed visitors and scores of  participants. These included V.A. Southern Oregon Rehab. Center and Clinic’s head Chaplain, Wayne Bell, who led the Invocation. Also on the program–the Marine Corps League Honor Guard; St. Mary’s High School Choir; traditional kilt-clad bagpipers; Prospect’s music teacher, Al Zeller rendering Taps, and Klamath Falls’ Cascade Civil War Society’s cannon salute. 

The guest speakers’ roster featured Congressman Greg Walden, Senator Ron Wyden,  State Rep. Dennis Richardson, and US Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Mark Dalton.

Afterward, Wyden and Chaplain Bell would head to White City’s SORCC  for a special annual show of gratitude Bell initiated there several years ago. “With Valley Church of White City supplying the manpower,” Bell said in a recent interview, “ we feed approximately 450 vets who reside at the Clinics.”  

By 10:30 a.m., dozens of volunteers had begun work under huge outdoor canopies near the SORCC Golf Course duck pond.  “They grilled  550 hot dogs, and 540 hamburger patties,” said Chaplain Steve Philo, who helped with the serving. Philo also remained available to chat with veterans who might be missing loved ones and home towns during eight-to-twelve-month stays at the facility. 

Visitors from local Veterans’ motorcycle clubs stopped by. Some representing the Eagle Riders spent an hour at  SORCC, before departing for White City’s Parade at Burns Park.

A Christian motorcycle ministry called “Temple of God” furnished live music through its band, “No Turning Back.” Dynamic lead singer, Anthony Rivas, hails from Central Point. While musician Shawn Whitman performed, his wife Gemma discussed their activities. “We have pastors, music, dance team, and outreach. Next week we’re playing a block party for kids in Central Point.” Her 18-year-old daughter, Jordan, also participates in the dance team, and sings with the band. Gemma described their having held Christian musical performances amid rough biker attendees at a function called “Street Vibrations” in the lobby of a Reno, Nevada Casino.

Referring to Monday’s event as a community effort, Philo observed, “Most of the meat will be consumed by 2 p.m. We usually run out of potato salad, too. Chaplain Bell started this barbeque because we wanted the Veterans to know God loves them, and we’re grateful for their service.”
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent

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