Written in stone

ASHLAND — You'd think if someone carved a Memorial Day monument in stone that no one could possibly forget it, but they do.

Chiseled and smoothed from Oregon granite, the overlooked marker still sits under a weather-worn, empty flagpole at the south end of Ashland Cemetery.

The stone's $700 cost was donated by citizens of the Granite City. The stone was ripped from Blair's quarry just eight miles east of Ashland, and dedicated on Memorial Day 1921.

George Briscoe, superintendent of city schools, gave the unveiling speech.

"We wish that this tablet be a permanent memorial, reminding those that come after us of the glory of the republic, the bravery of its defenders and the holiness of its ideals."

This was no small ceremony, but somehow was quickly forgotten.

On the Plaza, a parade formed early in the morning, with the Ashland band in the lead. The First Company Coast Artillery Corps of the Oregon National Guard marched first in perfect unison to the martial music.

Next came the American Legion, the Veterans of the Spanish American War, two troops of Boy Scouts, and the often out-of-step Grand Army of the Republic, frail veterans of the Civil War.

The children of Ashland were surrounded by the Women's Relief Corps and the Daughters of the American Revolution. They had filled their arms with thousands of flowers with which to decorate the cemetery's graves.

Before walking to the cemetery, the women and children stopped near the bridge, and in honor of the nation's sailors lost at sea, tossed flowers into Ashland Creek.

A speaker from each group offered a few patriotic words then turned to the monument and placed their own special decoration.

After all the dedication speeches were finished, festivities ended with a three-volley salute from National Guard rifles.

All graves in the cemetery were decorated with flowers and then everyone left, freezing the monument in time.

The inscription on the stone reads:

"In commemoration of all who served in defense of the flag since the birth of the nation, erected by the patriotic citizens of Ashland."

On its front, it lists American Revolution, Civil War, Indian War and World War.

Notice there's no number attached to the World War. In 1921, they really believed they had fought and won the war to end all wars.

On two sides and on the nearly blank back of the monument are carved, War of 1812, Mexican War and Spanish American War.

By the time World War II arrived, the monument apparently was just another forgotten block of granite in the cemetery. There's no mention of WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, or any other military operation.

Rocky King, sexton of Ashland Cemeteries, said that an American flag does fly over the monument each Memorial Day and on special occasions.

"We just can't leave it up all year," he said, "because it would be stolen."

This weekend is your chance. After 87 years, the Memorial Day flag will rise again and the forgotten monument will wait patiently for the chance that someone may remember.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com

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