Honoring the fallen
EAGLE POINT — Jeremiah Campbell said his father's headstone says it all: "Michael Campbell, Loving son and father."
A U.S. Navy veteran honorably discharged for medical reasons after an asthma attack, Michael would later go on to study and teach computer science at Southern Oregon University, then Southern Oregon State College. Jeremiah says he also worked with computers in the health field.
Michael committed suicide in 1998. Almost 20 years later, Jeremiah still remembers him as a selfless individual.
"He was a man who would give the shirt off his back," Jeremiah, an Eagle Point resident, said of Michael while kneeling in front of his headstone at the Eagle Point National Cemetery on Monday. "If you didn't waste his time and you needed something, he would help you. Out of his way, didn't matter if it put him a little bit behind."
Jeremiah was one of thousands to flock to the cemetery on Memorial Day for a ceremony organizers said was to honor those who have died while serving in the military, and men and women who have served or are currently serving.
"To me, it's not just to honor those who have fallen," Jeremiah said. "It's to honor all. Because even if you make it back, you come back with something. You come back with a memory, come back with a scar, come back with a memory you don't want."
The ceremony, which ran from 11 a.m. to about noon, featured flag displays, a memorial wall, a bagpipe band, flyovers from 173rd Fighter Wing F-15 Eagles from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls and Stearman bi-planes, and speakers that included Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden. Event officials said before the event they expected attendance to exceed 2,400 people.
"Memorial Day is the time for Americans to stand up as one body and say, 'Thank you. We remember you, and we are grateful to you,' " Walden said in remarks to the crowd.
Many attendees, such as Stephen Haney Jr. of Grants Pass, came to honor someone specific. He remembers his grandfather, World War II U.S. Navy veteran Salem Haney, as a great man. He tries to get out to the cemetery to visit him as often as he can.
"I just want to honor him. He's a great guy. Always had a smile on his face," Haney said. "I look up to him a lot."
Others came to pay respect to all veterans past and present.
"We've made it a tradition on Memorial Day to try and visit a national cemetery," Glenn Germany of Ashland said. "We like to bring the kids here, help them just understand what people have sacrificed to make this country the way it is."
Jeremiah said the day is a day to reflect on the freedom he has and people like his father who signed up to guard it.
"There's much to be learned from just one veteran," Jeremiah said. "There's a lot to be learned from all."
—Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.