Even though he just finished attending an event meant to celebrate his service, World War II U.S. Army veteran William Weinke said he doesn’t feel like a true veteran compared to his fallen comrades.

“The way I look at it, I came back,” he said after a Pendleton Memorial Day ceremony. “The real veterans are still there.”

American flags lined the roads of Olney Cemetery on Memorial Day, commemorating servicemen killed in action, prisoners of war and honorably serving veterans.

On the cemetery’s front lawn, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Let ’Er Buck Post #922 held a ceremony that featured a national anthem rendition from members of the Pendleton High School Swing Choir, a performance of armed forces service anthems from a three-piece band, and a speech from State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena.

VFW Commander Clifford Smith said attendance was good for an event designed to honor all veterans, including those that died on the battlefield.

“Since this has become a three-day holiday, a lot of people have forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day,” he said at the ceremony.

Hansell also expressed the importance of remembering veterans’ service to the country.

“One of the ways we don’t forget is to remember with events like this one,” Hansell said.

Though not a veteran himself, Hansell shared the story of his father, who served in China with the Army as a veterinarian during World War II.

Hansell said Chinese bureaucrats stood up in applause when he mentioned his father’s service during a recent government exchange between American state senators and Chinese government officials.

Hansell has voted yes to every veteran-related bill that was presented in the state Senate during his two-year tenure; not everyone was satisfied with the current state of veteran affairs.

Veteran Ray Slabick served in the Army in the Korean War and said Hansell and other politicians have failed to make veterans a priority.

“When veterans come home, they should be No. 1 and nothing else,” he said after the ceremony.

Despite some of the frustration, the crowd was mostly filled with smiles as veterans mingled amongst each other after the ceremony on a picturesque morning.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

 

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