By Mike Weland
“I don’t recall better weather for Memorial Day,” was an oft-heard refrain Monday in Bonners Ferry, and thinking back, it appears a good assessment. The weather, after a showery few days, was near perfect, and it was reflected in the turnout.
Spectators lined Riverside down Main Street in downtown Bonners Ferry for the parade, one of the best turnouts in quite awhile, and the fairgrounds parking lot was abuzz with activity well beforehand as everyone gathered to make preparations. The only thing missing, inexplicably, were the classic tractors that usually lend their sputters, smoke and pop to the parade.
It was a great parade our community can be proud of nonetheless.
The turnout was relatively light at Grandview Cemetery for the remembrance of those we’ve lost, who gave their lives in service to our nation. As always, flags marked the graves of those who rest there who served in one of this nation’s military uniforms; Navy, Marine, Army, Coast Guard and Air Force, and there were items of apparel worn by many in attendance there remembering the veterans who’d gone before; full dress uniforms, field jackets, American Legion attire or just patches depicting the many and varied units in which this community’s veterans have served.
Organized primarily by American Legion Post 55 Commander Manny Figueroa, each of Boundary County’s veterans service organizations played a role, with many others pitching in.
Before the events of Memorial Day, Mrs. Kelly Hinthorn and the Boundary County Middle School Leadership Class worked at Grandview Cemetery putting a system in place to make it easier for those who place flags on veterans’ graves — look for a story on that soon. Veterans, with new faces joining each year as our older veterans go to lie with those who’ve gone before, go quietly from grave to grave, placing flags, accompanied by family and friends.
Flowers appear, one at a time, until the cemetery is abloom with the colors of reminiscence.
At Monday’s observance, the Bonners Ferry Fire Honor Guard advanced the colors to mark the official opening of the 2021 remembrance, Rebecca Huseby lifted her voice in the National Anthem, Scott Cameron led the Pledge of Allegiance and Pastor Len Pine gave the invocation.
Manny bid those in attendance welcome and made his opening statements, “In Flanders Fields” was read and Bonners Ferry’s 2021 Distinguished Young Woman, Cali Iacolucci, gave a speech on the importance of the day and those remembered.
“Remember,” guest speaker Dave Schuman, still looking good in the Army uniform he retired in more than 20 years ago, “this is the day we pay homage to all those who didn’t come home. This is not Veterans Day, it’s not a celebration. It is a day of solemn contemplation over the cost of freedom.”
Afterwards, Cassandra Phillips, Daughters of the American Revolution, lay a wreath beside the standing carbine, bayonet down, a bush cap atop, dog tags hanging from the bolt. Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3622 fired the salute and Air Force veteran Ron McIlnay sounded taps from beneath a tree in the distance. Pastor Pine gave the benediction, and Army veteran Jim Thompson, as he has for many years past, raised the cemetery’s main flag to peak before lowering it to half mast for the rest of the solemn day.
The four members of the BFFD Honor Guard solemnly retraced their steps to retrieve the colors, and those gathered slowly made their way to the rest of their day.