The music of the Pierce College Concert Band and the Clan Gordon Pipe Band will kick off Puyallup’s traditional Memorial Day program at the Pioneer Park pavilion Monday, entertaining more than 500 guests and honoring the region’s veterans and active duty servicemembers.
Congressman Denny Heck of the 10th Congressional District — representing Pierce, Thurston and Mason counties — will deliver the keynote address.
Heck said Memorial Day for him is a somber and reverent time.
“Two days after is my brother’s birthday,” Heck said. “My brother was a Marine serving in Vietnam and died from his exposure to Agent Orange.”
Heck told the Herald his address will likely center on the 10th Congressional District’s distinction for having one of the highest numbers of Medal of Honor recipients in the nation. Notable, Heck said, is U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle White from Bonney Lake who received the Medal of Honor May 13 for his heroic efforts while serving in Afghanistan.
Heck said he will also likely speak about the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act, which he is sponsoring.
“Congress does two gold medals a year, and competition is unbelievably fierce,” Heck explained. “In effect, the government will mint a coin for fighter aces. These are fighter pilots who have five or more kills. We haven’t created any since Vietnam.”
Heck said there are upwards of 90 fighter aces still living who served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. If the act passes, a Congressional Gold Medal will be given to every fighter ace.
The annual Memorial Day program is presented by Puyallup Valley VFW Post 2224, with sponsor support from American Legion Puyallup Post 67 and the Mount Rainier chapter of the Fleet Reserve Association.
Jack Taylor, a member of the VFW and a Vietnam combat veteran, said the first half of the program will be devoted to musical performances by the Pierce College and Clan Gordon bands. The second half will focus on remembrance.
“There will be a presentation of a dozen or so wreaths from several organizations. They will be placed at the memorial in the park,” Taylor said. “We have names read of all of the fallen since World War II. This includes Victor Leonard Kandle, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1945 during World War II. He was a 1939 graduate of Puyallup High School.”
A number of dignitaries will attend, Taylor said, including state Senator Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup; state Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup; state Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup; members of the Puyallup City Council and Puyallup Mayor John Knutsen.
Taylor said the program’s history dates back six years. It has developed a reputation for being one of the Puget Sound’s most popular community events, Taylor said.
“I think it’s the fact that it’s the main patriotic community event,” Taylor said. “The venue, of course, is perfect at the pavilion. The third thing is we always have incredibly good performers and speakers. The people that speak attract the public. In Puyallup, there is a sense of patriotism that we tap into.”
If you go
The annual Memorial Day program will begin at 1 p.m. Monday at the pavilion in Puyallup’s Pioneer Park. The program is free, with free parking and indoor seating. For more information, call 360-893-8022.Andrew Fickes: 253-552-7001 andrew.fickes @puyallupherald.com Twitter: @herald_andrew