Local Veterans Day events few, due to COVID-19

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple Veterans Day events have been canceled in the Mid-Valley.

Breakfasts and dinners, the Albany Veterans Day Parade and other events will not be held this year, due to the pandemic.

One of the last to go was a planned Veterans Day Drive-By at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home in Lebanon, scheduled for Nov. 11.

Organizer John Lee said Friday that, due to positive outbreaks of the virus in East Linn County veterans organizations, he decided to cancel the event, citing the danger of passing the virus in close interaction in the staging area.

“I just felt that, because we were starting to see it within veterans organizations, because they’re the ones involved in this, I decided to pull the plug,” he said. “I really felt bad about doing it. I know the Veterans Home was really looking forward to it.”

As of Friday, Nov. 6, the only event still on the calendar was the Veterans Day Memorial Service held on the morning of the holiday at TimberLinn Park in Albany.

Organizer Andy Martinak said planners have decided to press ahead, though the time has been changed from early morning to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

“We’re cautioning people that if they want to come out, we’re not supposed to have over 100 people. We’re emphasizing social distancing, wearing masks,” he said.

A video of the event will be posted on the Albany Parks Department website, he said.

The service will include remarks by Oregon Veterans Care Centers CEO Kelly Odegaard, former director of the Lebanon home, an officer from the Oregon National Guard, outgoing County Commissioner Will Tucker and Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa, a 21-gun salute, playing of “Taps,” and more.

The cancellation of the Veterans Parade enabled organizers to move the time to “the 11th hour or the 11th day of the 11th month,” Martinak noted.

He said attendees can also view the expanded Linn County Veterans Memorial, to which new memorial bricks have been added.

“”One of the new bricks is a Medal of Honor winner, Henry Schauer, who was honored for action in Italy.

“The only other one is Audie Murphy,” Martinak said, noting that the original creator of the memorial included bricks for four of his personal heroes: Murphy, Gen. George Patton, Ira Hayes (the Native American who helped raise the flag over Iwo Jima) and Hank Dixon – the builder’s father-in-law.

In Sweet Home, American Legion Commander Dale Jenkins said he is organizing a local observance of Bells of Peace, a U.S. national bell tolling remembrance that was created in 2018 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the World War I Armistice, Nov. 11, 2018.

The Doughboy Foundation has since promoted it as an annual remembrance of those who served in World War I and of the moment when the guns fell silent, and bells tolled on the Western Front – on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour in 1918, after four years of brutal combat.

“It’s a community thing that the American Legion is trying to get communities to do across the nation,” Jenkins said, noting that he has been attempting to contact local churches to encourage them to participate.

For more information, contact Jenkins at (503) 867-5409.

– Scott Swanson