Tribal Government & News

Honoring those who served

05.31.2024 Danielle Harrison Events, Holiday, West Valley Veterans Memorial
Tribal member Anthony Quenelle sings a memorial song during the Tribe’s annual Memorial Day ceremony at the West Valley Veterans Memorial on the Tribal campus on Monday, May 27. (Photos by Michelle Alaimo)


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals editor

The Memorial Day ceremony returned to Grand Ronde’s West Valley Veterans Memorial for the 21st time on Monday, May 27, and included the addition of six names to the six black granite pillars that represent the major branches of the U.S. military.

The six who were honored during the ceremony included Tribal member Robert E. Patterson, Scott B. LeClaire and Timothy R. Linn, whose names were added to the Navy pillar, Curtis J. Hubbell on the Army pillar, and Joseph E. Gaines and Megan A. Davis on the Air Force pillar.

Approximately 70 people attended the 1 p.m. ceremony, held under sunny skies with a light breeze. A boxed lunch, served to attendees at the Tribal Community Center by Veterans Royalty, preceded the event. 

Veterans Special Event Board Secretary Molly Leno served as the master of ceremonies and welcomed attendees.

“What a beautiful day to honor our veterans,” she said. “It’s very special and I appreciate all of you.”  

Tribal member Anthony Quenelle drummed and sang a memorial song.

The Grand Ronde Honor Guard posted the colors and Tribal Council member Michael Cherry provided an invocation.

Other Tribal Council members in attendance were Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, Vice Chair Chris Mercier and Lisa Leno. Past Tribal Council chair and Marine Corps veteran Reyn Leno also attended, along with past Tribal Council member Jack Giffen Jr.  

After invocation, Tribal member JC Rogers sang the national anthem as she has for the past seven events. After she sang, Grand Ronde and Veterans Royalty members performed “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Veterans Special Event Board member Al Miller read the poem “Remember Me, America,” by Memorial Day ceremony fixture Bud Abbott, who walked on in 2019.

The keynote speaker was Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Tribal Veteran Coordinator Jon R. Taylor.

“It is my sincere honor and privilege to be here today among so many fellow veterans, family, friends and Tribal Elders as we gather to honor the tremendous and unforgotten sacrifices of our nation’s fallen heroes,” he said. “As veterans and service members, we walk in the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. In my role as the Tribal Veteran Coordinator and as a proud Navy veteran, I’m keenly aware of how much we veterans and active duty service members owe to our World War II generation, who with the support and help of our World War I veterans, returned home from the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific to fight and advocate for the establishment of a comprehensive system of veteran benefits and resources that we enjoy today.”

Taylor also acknowledged the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6. D-Day marked the beginning of the liberation of France and the rest of Western Europe from German occupation, resulting in the unconditional surrender of Germany and the end of World War II in Europe less than a year later.

“We humbly and gratefully acknowledge all of the courageous souls who fought and died on that terrible day,” Taylor said. “We remember their sacrifice, their valor and their grace, for while we stand amid these beautiful granite monuments which were dedicated in 2003, we must never forget that the names forever etched represent a precious life.”  

Molly Leno read aloud the names being added to the memorial and Reyn Leno made an impromptu speech to close the ceremony.

“I always want to acknowledge Steve Bobb Sr.,” he said. “He designed this memorial and did most of the work…We served together in the Marines in Vietnam less than a mile away from each other.”

Bobb was the longtime Memorial Day event organizer and Tribal Elder who walked on in August 2022. He also designed the memorial, which features a man and woman dressed in traditional Native clothing standing side by side while reaching for the sky.

The six pillars at the West Valley Veterans Memorial feature the names of Tribal and community members from Grand Ronde, Willamina and Sheridan who served in the four major branches of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

The addition of six names this year increased the number of those honored on all six pillars to 2,388.

The memorial had four pillars until 2023, when the Tribe received a $33,000 grant from Oregon State Parks to install two new black granite slab pillars at the memorial because the ones containing names of Army and Navy veterans were reaching capacity.

This was the 21st Memorial Day celebration held at the West Valley Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in May 2003, because the 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.