Memorial Day started off as a day of remembrance, a day where we Americans go to cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of our war dead. It is a day when we remember our ancestors, our family members, and our loved ones who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
In May 1968 Edna Leppell spearheaded a Vietnam Memorial Monument project, with the help of the American Legion, to honor Vernon De Pew. Later the names of Norm Lodholm, Doug Foster and Don Kraft were added to the monument that was placed in front of the M56 Scorpion at Tillicum Park. Plans are currently in the works to move the Scorpion and Vietnam Memorial Monument to the Forks Transit Center.
On Memorial Day in 1969, Commissioner of Public Lands Bert Cole dedicated a monument at the Forks Cemetery. The marker was unveiled to show all the names of the servicemen from the Forks area that died during their military service.
The following are the names on that monument that now sits on the grounds of Forks City Hall.
George C. Welch, Army, World War II, killed in action, July 31, 1943, a resident of the Bogachiel area he was the first World War II casualty from the West End.
Frank Daman Jr., Navy, World War II, missing in action and presumed dead, Mediterranean, May 9, 1944, he was awarded the Purple Heart. Daman’s name appears on the ‘Tablets of the Missing” in Nettuno, Italy at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.
Arthur R. Wittenborn, Army, World War II, killed in action, Europe, Oct. 9, 1944, he landed at D-Day and held the Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medal.
Sebastian George Vogel, Navy, World War II, killed in action, Philippines, Nov. 27, 1944, he left behind a wife and young son.
Walter A. Fletcher, Army, World War II, killed in action, Netherlands, April 15, 1945, it is believed he was killed just minutes before the last shot of the war was fired. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart posthumously.
Lorrel L. Cassell, Army, World War II, survived combat only to be killed in a plane crash returning home from his tour of duty, Dec. 8, 1945.
Earl K. Brandeberry, Army, World War II, survived combat, killed after reenlistment, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Robert Guy Price, Marine, Korean War, killed in action Nov. 30, 1950, he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Service Medal.
Arthur J. Munson Jr., killed in a vehicle accident, May 1, 1952.
Vernon E. DePew, Marine, South Vietnam, killed in action May 20, 1967, the first Vietnam War casualty from the West End.
Norman E. Lodholm, Army, South Vietnam, killed in action June 13, 1968.
Douglas G. Foster, Marine, South Vietnam, killed in action on his second tour, Sept. 15, 1968, he was recommended for three Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Navy Cross.
Donald R. Kraft, Army, South Vietnam, killed in action May 13, 1969, just 12 days into his tour of duty.
Jason Hanson, Marine, Iraq, killed while conducting combat operations July 29, 2006.
In addition to the names, the words “In memory of those who gave their lives in the service of their country” are engraved on the stone.
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Dedication took place Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at the Forks Transit Center.
The 15,000-pound, black granite monument was a community fundraising effort. It features on one side, “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.” The other side reflects area communities depicting panels of Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice.
At the Transit Center Plaza, the monument joined other memorials; the Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker, the Spartan Memorial, and a Smoke Bush in memory of Lance Cpl. Jason Hanson.