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Lower Yakima Valley salutes hometown heroes

Zillah shines as much as its memorial at dedication

Ribbon-cutting participants, from left, are Leonard Gonzales, son of Lucio Gonzales; World War II veteran Lucio Gonzales, Jerry Bradley, Mayor Gary Clark, Congressman Dan Newhouse, Ralph Hendrickson, John Simmons and City Clerk Sharon Bounds.

Photo by Ted Escobar
Ribbon-cutting participants, from left, are Leonard Gonzales, son of Lucio Gonzales; World War II veteran Lucio Gonzales, Jerry Bradley, Mayor Gary Clark, Congressman Dan Newhouse, Ralph Hendrickson, John Simmons and City Clerk Sharon Bounds.

— Saturday’s Veterans Day community celebration was not your ordinary observance attended by fewer than 100 people. There were more than 500 and perhaps as many as 1,000.

“I’m a loss at what to say about all of you who came,” Mayor Gary Clark said. “We were going to put out 20 chairs, then 40, then 100 but this, we don’t have enough for this.”

Clark invited everyone to the adjacent Community Center for refreshments after the ceremony, and he added: “It’s first come, first served.”

Dave Ettl, the morning guy on KIT news-talk radio, also mentioned the enormity of the crowd. And he mentioned the endless news reports of Americans who barely appreciate the country or not at all.

“I wish those people could be out here today to see what you’ve done,” Ettl said.

“This is the real America,” he added. “This is a fantastic memorial.”

Ettl noted his farther was one bulkhead from death when a Japanese torpedo struck his U.S. Navy ship in the South Pacific.

“He is my hero,” he said.

The program included a posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance by the Zillah Boy scouts and the Star Spangled Banner by the Zillah High School choir.

The ceremony recognized WWII veterans Dick

Story, Lucio Gonzales and Glenn Leuning.

Gonzales, 94, fought with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. Story, 89, also fought in the South Pacific with the Navy.

Leuning, 99, was not present for the ceremony, but he was lauded none-the-less. He fought with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific.

The ceremony came to a close at about noon when when Maynard Larson said: “I dedicate this memorial to the memory of those who fell in service of our country.”

That was followed by a reading of the names (and ringing of the bell) of area service men and women who were killed in action.

There was a 21-gun salute by the American Legion, a solemn playing of Taps and the festive cutting of the ribbon to open the memorial.

The memorial was the idea of the American Legion, but all of Zillah and other communities had a hand in it.

The actual process that got Zillah to this point began about three and a half years ago, Jerry Bradley said.

There were lots of meeting and lots of changes. The final product has 21 sentinels (standing granite and marble walls) that represent the 21-gun salute. They lead up the slope to the highest point in the memorial, where the America flag is posted.

The sentinels bear the names of veterans on plaques. There are still 200-300 plaques to be sold, and sales help finance the memorial.

So many people had a hand in the project that Clark found it futile to attempt to name them. He did thank the American Legion, the Public Works Department and the City Council.

The cost of the memorial was not disclosed, but it was substantial. It’s not as large as Sunnyside’s, but it will rival it in design, expression and quality of materials.

Other dignitaries at the ceremony included 15th District State Rep. Bruce Chandler of Granger and 4th District U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside.

Newhouse mentioned a touching moment he witnessed at SeaTac International Airport, when a plane load of older veterans debarked and passed through the airport.

“You know how busy that airport is,” he said. “Almost to a person, people stopped and clapped. I can tell you I was not the only one with a tear in his eye.”

Newhouse drew cheers and applause when he announced he had recently participated in the commissioning of the new U.S. nuclear submarine USS Washington.

“That was a proud moment,” he said.

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