The state Capitol Campus in Olympia was abuzz with activity Monday as people decorated war monuments with flags and flowers and gathered for Memorial Day observances.
Hundreds of people attended the Thurston County Veterans Council's annual service in the Legislative Building's rotunda. The event featured music, prayers, speeches, a rifle salute and taps.
"When our nation called, they did not hesitate to answer, knowing they might not make it (back) to us safely," said keynote speaker and Desert Storm veteran John Bradburn.
A member of Lacey VFW post #11402, he served 20 years in the Army and is the state surgeon for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Also at the event, the Chamber Choir from Timberline High School in Lacey sang the national anthem, and Olympia High School junior Evan Taylor shared the winning essay he penned for the VFW's contest.
Taylor said adults often worry about young people and the future of the country, but they shouldn't. His generation is passionate about issues that weren't necessarily addressed by earlier generations such as the environment, same-sex marriage and immigration.
"There is much to be optimistic about," Taylor said. "...We will adapt, we will change and we will succeed."
Marge Brandt of Lacey said she enjoyed the service because it was patriotic.
"It was terrific," added her husband Stanton Brandt, 90, a World War II Navy veteran. "It was an honor to be here."
Shortly after the rotunda service, hundreds of more people -- many of them wearing leather motorcycle gear -- met at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the annual Olympia Rolling Thunder service, a separate event that is part of a rally organized by motorcycle groups.
"Today is a special day," emcee Steven "LoLo" Tussey of Lakewood told the crowd. "It's not about a mattress sale. It's about remembering the names on this wall, and the monuments on this campus."
The service featured a couple of readings, "Amazing Grace" played by the Tacoma Scots Pipe Band and taps.
Army veteran Larry Morrison of Elma said he attends the service every year, and he knew several of the men whose names were on the wall from his tour in Vietnam, from 1965 to 1966.
He said many Americans don't understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. But for him, the holiday weekend is a time for reflection.
"I'm thinking about... the other guys who gave up their lives so we could be here," Morrison said.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org @Lisa_Pemberton