‘Freedom isn’t free’: West Seattle Memorial Day ceremony remembers those who paid with their lives


Story, video, and photos by Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

“Americans must remember that freedom isn’t free.”

That reminder from American Legion Post 160 commander Keith Hughes, at this afternoon’s West Seattle Memorial Day ceremony at Forest Lawn (WSB sponsor) in High Point. Here’s our video of the entire ceremony, unedited:

Hughes, an Army veteran, exhorted the 50-plus on hand also to remember that those who gave their lives for our freedom “are not just statistics – they are real people … with real names … real faces … real people.”

All around the site of the half-hour ceremony near the cemetery’s flagpole, the “real names” were there to see, on plaques atop graves marked with flags and crosses placed by members of Boy Scout Troop 284, who also assisted in the ceremony. We stopped to take note afterward:


The half-hour ceremony urged not only honor for the dead, but help for the living – the veterans who made it home alive: “Join us, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and many other groups … help us make a difference,” exhorted Hughes. “Remember our fallen once a year is just not enough. Consider what you can do to help those who have come home.” (The West Seattle Veterans’ Center recently reopened at Post 160’s hall in The Triangle.)


Both Hughes (above) and VFW Post 2713 commander Ray Fairbank (below), who described himself as a Navy veteran from Vietnam and an Air Force veteran from Desert Storm, spoke of Memorial Day’s history, going back to its origins as Decoration Day a century and a half ago, finally taking its current name in the ’60s.


Fairbank, also the VFW’s state chaplain, urged people to behold the American flag and consider what it represents – “white for purity … red stripes of courage … blue for tranquility … the sacred symbol of freedom.” And he drew audible cries from some in the crowd as he read a wrenching essay from Reader’s Digest, “A Fallen Soldier’s Final Salute.”

Hughes recalled a U.S. Marine lost in Okinawa in the 1940s, and an Army specialist lost in Afghanistan this decade – different hometowns, different genders, same courage, he observed.

Along with their words, Ross Hauck sang stirring renditions of the National Anthem as well as “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” – you can hear for yourself in our video of the ceremony, which concluded after echoing “Taps,” a release of white doves, and Troop 284 retiring the colors.



Though they were said toward the ceremony’s start, words from the invocation by chaplain and veteran Kelly Wadsworth (above) also seemed fitting in conclusion, a reminder that “cessation of war is not the same as enduring peace.”

After the somber observance, everyone was invited to a reception at Post 160’s Triangle headquarters; some headed out, some lingered, with a spirited song by the Duwamish Jazz Band:

The flags continued to wave in the breeze, honoring those “real names, real people” who had gone before.

6 Replies to "'Freedom isn't free': West Seattle Memorial Day ceremony remembers those who paid with their lives"

  • TheKing May 30, 2016 (8:07 pm)

    Thanks to all the troops. Thank you for serving your country. It is appreciated. 

  • Chris dyer May 30, 2016 (8:59 pm)

    What a great post and reminder of the sacrifices these men and women made and continue to make so we can live in a free society with all the opportunities that come with it. Thanks as well to all the loved ones and volunteers who keep the memories and stories alive.

  • MSW May 30, 2016 (11:46 pm)

    Nice service. Paid our respects to those who could not be with their family and friends. 

  • Elissa May 31, 2016 (7:25 am)

    Wonderful day thanks to Hank Kern and Forest Lawn for hosting again this year.  

  • enviromaven May 31, 2016 (2:44 pm)

    Great story on a  somber, poignant occasion.  As we continue through the longest war in our nation’s history, it’s good to think about ways we can make things a little easier for our brave veterans.  Thank you for this reminder!

  • Alki Betty May 31, 2016 (3:30 pm)

    This is my 3rd time attending this memorial service. Best speech of the 3. Here on behalf of my parents and all Dutch citizens to thank fallen Americans for their service & help (along with Canadians) in liberating the Netherlands 1945.  

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