Hundreds honor country's local heroes who served and died

PORTLAND, Ore. - Brad Maruhn spent a long time by his father's gravesite Monday at Willamette National Cemetery, making the flowers just perfect.

All of his six brothers and sisters live out of state so it was his responsibility to make sure their father was honored this Memorial Day.

"I called them up, told them I was going to be here, and so they're waiting for the pictures," Maruhn said.

Maruhn's father, Norman, served in Korea. His brothers later joined the military too. One went to Vietnam. But Maruhn said they were never encouraged to serve.

"He just said it was really cold and nasty and you never want to go to war. It's ugly and he lost friends there," Maruhn said.

Still, he always admired his father the soldier - like the time his school in Portland visited an air base.

"(We) went on a field trip and there's my dad and he's folding up a parachute. It's really, really cool. So my teacher let me go over there and talk to my dad, and my dad took me into the back and everything. All the kids were like, 'Wow that's your dad?'" Maruhn said.

He lost his father in 1986. He was just 57 years old. As Maruhn approaches that age himself he's touched deeply by the sea of flags that line the cemetery, and the beautiful ceremony honoring veterans like his father.

"You don't want the war here. The last thing you want, as my dad said, you never want anyone on your own country. You want it over there," Maruhn said. "What they sacrifice, what they do, it really means a lot."

Hundreds of people gathered at Willamette National Cemetery to pay tribute. The keynote speaker was Portland Trail Blazers founding broadcaster - and Marine - Bill Schonely.

"Let me be clear in saying that while professional athletes are incredibly talented and many are even outstanding role models for our young people, the term "hero" is one that should be reserved for those that we remember today," he said.

Schonely started his radio career while serving in the Marine Corps.

In Southwest Portland, the names of 805 Oregonians who died in the Vietnam War were read out loud to a gathering at the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Living Memorial.

Ron Cannon, a Vietnam veteran who helped organize the event, said Memorial Day is a good time for non-veterans to talk with vets about comrades they've lost in war even though it's impossible to know what that's really like.

"To maybe gain a little bit of understanding, which is really tough," Cannon said. "If you weren't there, and someone tells you about what happened, you just, you just don't get the true feeling of it."

Cannon said the decades since the Vietnam War, and the lives lost most recently in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, show how important it is to keep recognizing the ultimate sacrifice made by so many.