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Southern Oregon Journal: Tribute to veterans (and happy birthday, Daddy)

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

— Winston Churchill

First stop was Cathy Wallace’s Heaven Scent Flowers in Eagle Point. One deep breath of fresh florals inside her store resets my senses no matter the season. It’s eternally spring there. Trouble is, you have to exhale sometimes.

I hadn’t come for a fresh bouquet, but to buy a simple handful of artificial flowers in fall colors. I told her they were for my dad. Cathy wrapped them in tissue paper, charging me a modest sum.

Nov. 3 was Dad’s birthday, and a glorious autumn day to boot. In a rare appearance lately, the sun powered local fall color with extra pizzazz. Daddy would have loved it, his favorite color being orange, and likely would have played a round of golf with his brother and best friend, my Uncle Dick.

With Veteran’s Day approaching this Thursday, I thought, why not combine the honors. So, I paid a visit to the Eagle Point National Cemetery — always a moving reminder. As I climbed the hill to Riley Road, the song “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart began with a magical guitar intro to set the tone. It’s a tune that always plucks at a melancholy heartbreak inside, and this destination and the afternoon in gold allowed no exception.

I was alone behind the tears as I drove through the gate and into the beautifully maintained grounds. The small huddle of weather-resistant flowers waited on the seat beside me. I really miss my dad lately. I don’t visit him enough — a practice I’ve long vowed to amend. Driving farther inside, and I’m not making this up, the Chicago song “Wishing You Were Here” drew on the bittersweet mood. Though the song refers to a life on the road, the title refrain did the trick.

I located Myron E. Dover’s site, which sits on the side of a hill overlooking our small town. Swiping fallen leaves from its surface, I read his name along with the sentiment, “Forever in our hearts.” Then I retrieved one of the flower holders from a nearby container. These are a great convenience because they have a long probe for placing them securely in the ground. Kneeling, I positioned the vase in the center, aligned with the cross chiseled on Dad’s stone, then placed the flowers inside and arranged them to my satisfaction.

“Happy birthday, Daddy,” I said. Dad had been in the US Army Air Corps as a radio control operator on Guam during WWII. I wish I knew more details.

I admired the pop of color, knowing he would approve. Then, I visited his neighbors and cleaned the leaves from their declarations of life, death and valor.

I drove around to the columns, where Aunt Georgia and Uncle Dick are laid to rest, along with Don Cail, my cousin’s father-in-law. Both my uncle and Mr. Cail served during WWII as well. The view to my right revealed a perfect snapshot of Mount McLoughlin, or “Grampa’s Mountain,” as Eli, my uncle’s young grandson referred to it when visiting their ranch on Highway 140. I plan to return with additional colorful remembrances next week. Rows of white tombstones against the green, with a blue-sky backdrop and autumn color hanging on, made a striking panorama.

From there, I continued up to the chapel. I have attended three services there. I saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and marveled at the view from the top.

Visitation hours at the cemetery are sunrise to sunset. Knowing someone is not required. Time invested is a gift of respect — for them and for yourself. All those lives — 25,000 souls worth, most representing people who served our country through a few wars and helped guard our invaluable, coveted freedoms during peacetime.

To all those dedicated citizens serving today as well as in years past, we honor you on Nov. 11 — and every day.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.