Crowd marks 50th Memorial Day Festival of Flags ceremony at Ferndale cemetery

The number of people who gathered to observe the Festival of Flags Memorial Day ceremony closely mirrored the 1,625 American flags lining the cemetery at Moles Farewell Tributes Greenacres Memorial Park in Ferndale Monday, May 25.

Each flag, supported by a pole bearing the name of a fallen veteran, was donated to Moles by the family of a service member buried at the cemetery, said John Moles, fourth generation owner of the business.

“These flags represent a life,” Moles said. “Each was given to a family by the United States, and those families turned around and entrusted them to us.”

The display, put on each year at Greenacres just off Northwest Drive and West Axton Road, is the largest in the Puget Sound region, Moles said. It was started by his grandfather, who served in Okinawa, Japan.

This year was a special for anniversaries: 150 years since the first Memorial Day observance (then called Decoration Day); 70 years since World War II ended in Europe; and the 50th Memorial Day ceremony at Greenacres.

In particular, this year’s event honored WWII veterans, a handful of whom attended the ceremony.

Fittingly, Eagle Scout Matthew Klein was able to unveil his Eagle Scout project: A WWII monument three years in the making.

The marble monument, which bears seals of different branches of the military, will remain in a Veterans Memorial at Greenacres that is owned by the Whatcom Allied Veterans Council.

Klein, a senior at Sehome High School, raised about $8,000 to make the memorial, and said he picked WWII since both of his grandfathers had served during that war — one in the Pacific, the other at Normandy. His dad Leigh, and mom Melissa watched as he unveiled the tribute during the service.

“It took a lot longer than we expected. ... I learned a lot about project management,” Klein said. “We also laid space for other memorials, and other boys (in Troop 4020) are looking to do a few for their projects.”

Monday’s ceremony, one of many throughout the county and around the state, featured several other special moments, including a visit from a Department of Homeland Security helicopter, which delivered the flag that was raised to half-staff at the start of the event.

After the national anthem was performed by violinist and keynote speaker Swil Kanim, a member of Lummi Nation, members of the 4-H Thunder Birds club released dozens of trained doves, which took flight, circling the crowd a few times before heading home.

“The honorable choices I have made are the ones that have worth,” Kanim said as he started his keynote address. “Honor is not for the elite. In fact I think honor among the common man is what our founding fathers were talking about. On this day it is my honor to recognize the honor that inspired every service member represented by the flags around us.”

Kanim told the crowd he’d read a lot recently on Facebook about different opinions on the right and wrong way to celebrate the holiday.

“Some say it is only for those that have fallen. I agree, but I want to acknowledge that these three gentlemen are World War II veterans, and have been chosen to be honored by this community,” Kanim said, gesturing to three men seated near the front of the audience. “I am so thankful for their service decades ago. They protected the freedom that we can celebrate this holiday any way we want.”