By Brady Extin | The Times-Post
PENDLETON — Members of the Pendleton community, including veterans and family members, gathered at the Pendleton American Legion on Nov. 11 to celebrate both Veterans Day and the post’s new garden.
A collaboration between Pendleton American Legion Post 117 and Pendleton Boy Scout Troop 232 member Mark Nielsen, the Celebration of Service Garden was praised during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Story continues below photos.
Nielsen planned and developed the garden as his Eagle Scout project, which in the near future — after further requirements are met — should earn him scouting’s highest rank.
“Honoring veterans was a very cool aspect of the project. Not all Eagle projects get to do something like that, and it turned out very good. The legion is happy with it, and I’m happy with it,” Nielsen said. “From what it started out as with bushes and rotting ties in the front, it turned out very, very well.”
The first stage of the garden involved placing memorial bricks on each side of the building’s front entrance. Volunteers and sponsors contributed to the effort, as did those who purchased bricks to honor service members. The honor bricks state the veteran’s name, branch of service and dates of service.
“I’m sure everyone knows a veteran, or might have a veteran in their family, so the legion stands here today due to our veterans, their families and our community. With everyone’s support, we are able to return the same support to our veterans,” commander Nancy McKechnie said. “The bricks are a dedication to veterans that have touched our lives, and the garden is here as an acknowledgement to veterans and for their selfless dedication of service to our country.”
As of the ceremony, more than 100 memorial bricks had been placed, with the opportunity for more to be added in the future. Longterm goals for the garden include adding more named bricks — which cost $30 each — along with adding plants and flowers.
“I think it was a good turnout. It’s a big improvement to the front,” McKechnie said. “We had evergreens out there, and people were throwing anything and everything in there and treating them like trash cans, so it’s really nice to have this out there now.”
McKechnie wants the garden to be not only a place honoring veterans, but also a place for their families to visit.
“It honors the veterans, but I also think it’s a place for the families to come,” McKechnie said. “Sometimes they’re not always able to go to their gravesites, so this is nice as a memorial to them.”
One family with multiple ties to the memorial bricks is King’s family.
Legion post adjutant Ellen King helped get the project done, and now the garden holds four bricks with ties to her family.
King, a veteran herself, has one, along with her husband, James; brother-in-law William; and father-in-law, Joseph.
She and William served in the Air Force. James served in both the Air Force and Marines, and Joseph served as a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II.
“My dad was only 24 when he went across Omaha Beach in a glider and did three missions,” said James King, who is Legion first vice commander. “He saw a lot of stuff as a young boy, and he’d be really happy that he has a brick here with us.”
The Kings are just one of many families that now have the garden as a place to visit, honor and reminisce about past veterans and family members.
And for McKechnie and the Legion, that’s what the garden is all about.
“A big thing for us is to just be able to help out the veterans in our community, and give back to the community,” she said.