Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in America's wars.
A large contingent of the Sisters community gathered for that remembrance at Sisters Community Church on Monday. The location was changed at the last minute due to inclement weather, but volunteers created a dignified atmosphere in the church sanctuary.
Gene Hellickson, American Legion Post 86 commander, welcomed the audience as master of ceremonies, reminding them of the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While it is always appropriate to honor anyone who has served, he noted, Memorial Day focuses on the fallen.
"It is our duty to ensure that their memory and legacy lives, not just on the last Monday in May, but every day," Hellickson said.
Keynote speaker Jim Horsley reflected on memory, legacy and sacrifice in a remarks that highlighted his personal experience as a Navy combat pilot in the Vietnam War. Horsley flew 200 missions in carrier-based A-6 Intruders in the waning days of the conflict. While the war on the ground was winding down, the air war had intensified in the campaign known as Rolling Thunder, which was intended to force the North Vietnamese to the peace conference table.
The intensity of experience of a combat veteran never leaves him, Horsley noted.
"We were flying day-and-night missions over North Vietnam - and the memories come flooding back," he said.
He acknowledged that pilots lived for the adrenaline rush of combat.
"So much of combat was exhilarating," he said. "If you survived."
And of course, not all combatants did. Horsley lost four close friends, three of them roommates. He recalled flying a search and rescue mission to search for the crews that had never come back to the ship.
"I remember being in sobbing tears," he said. "The only time in 11 months I allowed myself to express any emotion. Got back to the ship and shut it down."
The bodies of Horsley's friends were recovered years later, and the speaker's voice choked as he recalled the poignancy of a burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
For Horsley, the recognition of the sacrificial deaths of members of the armed services echo the fundamental cornerstone of his own Christian faith.
"My life is no longer my own," he said. "It was purchased at a price."
Horsley issued a challenge - a call to service to family, community, country; service that entails some cost that makes it meaningful.
"Each of us has a limitless capacity to be of priceless value," he said.
His words brought a standing ovation from the large audience.
The ceremony featured many traditional elements, from the presentation of the colors by the Redmond Marine Junior ROTC to the singing of the national anthem and a medley of service hymns by the High Desert Chorale and the playing of Taps by Bruce Shaul.
Lance Trowbridge listed the Sisters veterans who have died in the past year. Their names will be inscribed this summer on a new stone at the veterans' memorial in the Village Green Park.