“Remember so we don’t forget” Memorial Day commemorated at Tulalip 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Stars and stripes waved in the breeze. Hundreds of tiny US flags were placed at the graveside of every Tulalip member who served in the military and moved on to the next journey. The Tulalip Honor Guard stood at attention. Comprised of thirteen tribal Veterans, seven held rifles and four carried flags, while Hank Williams held the Eagle Staff and David ‘Chip’ Fryberg wielded his brass trumpet. As the Tribe’s Veterans Coordinator, William McLean III, called out the orders, barrels were raised high and each of the seven veterans simultaneously shot three rounds into the air while Chip performed Taps on his horn.  

  Tulalip is the proud home of countless courageous service men and women, from as far back as the first world war to this very day. Throughout the generations, numerous tribal members answered the call to duty, trained hard, and bravely fought to defend our nation and our freedoms. And once a year, the families of those soldiers and veterans who passed, collectively join together to pay tribute to their loved ones. As always, the Tribe held two beautiful Memorial Day ceremonies, one at the Priest Point cemetery and the other at the Mission Beach cemetery.

“Across America, everybody is pausing just like we are doing right now, to remember those who served in this great country of ours,” said Vietnam Veteran and Tulalip BOD, Mel Sheldon. “And across many of the reservations, they’re doing the same exact thing as we are. Native Americans are very proud of our people signing up, being in the military. We raised our hands more than any other groups throughout history. Whether they were Marines, Semper-Fi, Air Force, Army, Navy, we had our men and women who volunteered and signed up to fight for our country, and we’re so proud of that legacy.”

The weather was perfect on the day of the ceremonies, which set a beautiful backdrop for the immaculately manicured landscapes of the two cemeteries. Many thank-yous were expressed to the Tribe’s groundskeepers for preparing both sites for the Memorial Day commemoration. 

At the Mission Beach cemetery, Mel addressed the families in attendance, “Take a look around at how beautiful this cemetery looks today. Seeing all the rhododendrons in full bloom and all the other shrubbery with flowers, it’s a magnificent cemetery. It’s great to be here today, to remember so we don’t forget.”

Sharing roll call duties, Cy Hatch III and Sara Andres read the names of nearly 300 tribal members who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, as well as all those veterans who are no longer with us. Families listened intently and waited patiently to hear the name of their fallen heroes. 

A handful of veterans shared their personal experiences of time spent in the military, and recalled their past campaigns, while also taking time to honor their friends of family members who didn’t make it back to their homelands. Mel also held a special dedication for Cy ‘Saigon’ Williams and Stan Jones Sr., who both recently passed and were a big part of the Tulalip Veterans community. 

Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, shared, “I want to thank each and every one of you who served in the military, and those who also gave the sacrifice of their lives, and the gold star mothers. It’s so important that we continue this to remember those who made that sacrifice, and their families because they make the sacrifice right along with them when they’re in the military.”

Once the ceremony at the Mission Beach cemetery concluded, the families stopped to visit the final resting places of their loved ones before they headed to the Gathering Hall to share a little good medicine together after the moving day of remembrance – a meal, some memories, and of course, some hearty laughter.