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Couple reprints the past

The painting "Always Remembering" by Dennis Lyall has deep roots for Port Angeles couple Gregg and Sonya Elwood.

"I have 32 friends on that wall," Gregg Elwood said.

"And every time I see this, it brings back the memories."

Elwood, a Navy chief hospital corpsman for 25 years before retirement, is fully disabled after exposure to Agent Orange in his 30 months of trips in and out of Vietnam.

He had five-way cardiac bypass surgery in 2001 and now has Graves' disease and diabetes related to the Agent Orange exposure.

Sonya Elwood's brother Bruce was exposed to the chemical, too, and died recently because of it.

Agent Orange was used to destroy jungle foliage to make it easier to find hiding Viet Cong.


“Always Remembering” by Dennis Lyall       Photo courtesy of Gregg and Sonja Elwood

Remembering the beginning


Elwood bought a print of "Always Remembering" 20 years ago from the Postal Commemorative Society.

When looking at the print, he can see himself as one of the men marching.

"Here I am, in the back," he said.

"That would have been me."

As a Navy corpsman medic, he traveled with Marines into combat.

Elwood said he was treated like gold because of his importance to the group.

"The life expectancy of a corpsman was seven seconds once he hit the beach," he said.

"I consider myself to be like a cat. I'm on my eighth life now."

He was exposed to Agent Orange, shot down twice in different helicopters, wounded in combat during the SS Mayaguez incident, and totaled his car on Highway 104 when a deer hit him and more.

Right of honor

In 2004, he and Sonya were given an opportunity to buy the printing rights for the painting.

Lyall didn't plan to make more prints, so the Elwoods looked into the rights and eventually made a deal.

"It's an honor to own this," Elwood said.

Before becoming fully disabled, Elwood worked as a custom framer and would place the prints in black frames as a symbol.

Family affair

The meaning of "Always Remembering" is ambiguous, Elwood said.

He isn't sure if the soldier on the wall is staring at the woman laying flowers, who might be his wife, or the man to the right, who might be an old colleague.

"It basically honors all soldiers," Sonya Elwood said.

"It's the sacrifice of being away from families to do jobs that sometimes need to be done."

Mass appeal

The Elwoods have owned the printing rights for more than six years, but deaths and illnesses prevented them from promoting the print.

Sonya's mother, father and brother died within a short time, and she quit her job to care for her husband who often is ill.

"We're trying to get this out now," Sonja Elwood said.

"We've gotten our steam back up."

So far, they've sold about 50 prints but they plan for that to grow quickly.

They are placing ads in major veterans' magazines and plan on attending the American Legion's Department of Wounded Veterans convention.

A portion of sales benefits youth activities through American Legion Walter Akeley Post 29 in Port Angeles.

Funds already have supported a Cub Scout Pack and Little League baseball.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.


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