The brassy, melancholy melody of “Taps” was a contrast to the warm sun rays beaming down on a crowd gathered under a bright blue sky at Veterans Park on April 29. American flags lined the perimeter, held by members of the American Legion Riders, and at the center, in front of the Liberty Bell, family members clung to each other or stood silently, as they gathered to honor two Clallam County veterans who died during the previous month.
For the past 14 years, the Veterans Association and its member groups in Clallam County have held monthly ceremonies like this one to honor the memory of local veterans and service members.
In April, Marilyn Reidel was presented with a flag in honor of her recently departed husband, who served in the U.S. Army.
Reidel said she thought a large group of people would be receiving flags and she was shocked and touched when she realized it was more personal than that.
Reaching out to the families by presenting a flag, in honor of the service of the individual, is an important part of the ceremony, said Terry Roth of the Marine Corps League.
“It’s part of their privilege,” he said.
While it is typical for veterans to be honored in parades and on certain holidays, like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Roth believes the monthly ceremony that veteran volunteers hold in Clallam County is unique. Roth said after the Liberty Bell was refurbished and the park was cleaned up in 1997, members of the Veterans Association decided the park ought to be used more often.
About 25 representatives attending a monthly VA meeting formulated the idea of having a monthly ceremony to honor veterans who had died within the past month, he said.
The procedure of the ceremony is very specific: There are flag lines by the American Legion Riders, the ringing of the Liberty Bell, a rifle fire line by the Marine Corps League, the reading of names, the presentation of the colors by the Washington National Guard and the presentation of the flag to the family.
Five of Roger Errol “Thunder” Reidel’s siblings attended the April 29 ceremony. Reidel died April 6 at the age of 70. He served in the Army for four years starting in 1959.
One of his brothers is a three-time Purple Heart recipient and the bell-ringing in Roger Reidel’s honor was important to him, Marilyn Reidel said.
Joan Quigley, whose husband Verle Quentin “Bruce” Quigley died March 19 at the age of 91, said much of his family was able to attend the March ceremony in his honor.
“It was very moving,” she said. “It was such a lovely, dignified service. It was a wonderful tribute.”
Bruce Quigley joined the Army in July 1942 and served in World War II attached to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, 4th Armored Forward, 187th Signal Repair Company, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany.
After the war, Quigley lived in Montana and became a lifetime member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He took part in the gun salute whenever a veteran was buried, his wife said. “It was fitting he got the same honor.”
The next bell-ringing ceremony is at 1 p.m. May 27 at Veterans Park on Lincoln Street in Port Angeles.