Memorial ceremony achieves veteran’s goal
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent April 1, 2013 10:32PM
Updated: May 3, 2013 6:18AM
Veterans were out in force Monday for the first monthly memorial service organized by a local Marine Corps veteran, Walter White, at the Gilbert Park Freedom Shrine in Portage.
A gleaming brass bell was tolled for each of 29 people who served in the military and died in March as their names, branch of service, age and hometown were read by a volunteer. The bell similarly tolled for five Portage veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars who died last month.
The Portage High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps color guard opened the ceremony by presenting colors, followed by a brief invocation. Eight veterans and family members solemnly read the names.
“I wanted the whole community involved,” White, a Portage resident, said. “I didn’t want a service for veterans by veterans. These vets didn’t die for other old vets — they served for everyone in the community.”
White, who sports Marine Corps insignia in a pierced ear, is a Marine veteran of Vietnam and also served in the Navy Reserves and Army National Guard.
“It’s easier to say I didn’t serve in the Coast Guard and Air Force,” he joked.
White was inspired to organize what he hopes is the first of many such services to be held on the first Monday of each month after he attended a similar service that has been taking place for more than two years in Hobart.
Nearly six months in the planning, White found everybody “100% supportive” of his effort as he worked his way through the Portage city administration to get all the needed i’s dotted and t’s crossed to allow the service to take place.
“This is a great idea. There is nothing we can do to honor those guys other than what we’ve done,” said Dave Clark, a U.S. Army veteran and Portage resident.
Portage Mayor James Snyder spoke briefly to those assembled.
“We need to remember our grandfathers and grandmothers from World Wars I and II, Korea and now Vietnam, our brothers and sisters and, for some, children who fought in Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan,” Snyder said.
“Portage is grateful to Mr. Walter White’s vision to see this through. May we remember with both tears and gratitude those who gave us the gift of service and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice that we might have a free and peaceful Portage.”
The ceremony closed as members of the Marine Corps League fired a 12-gun salute to honor the fallen veterans.
Afterward, White said he was “real pleased with the turnout.”
All subsequent ceremonies will take place on the first Monday of each month at 5 p.m. at Gilbert Park.