11 Nov 1987. Dedication Day for a Living Memorial to honor Oregon Vietnam Veterans had come true. The impossible dream nurtured for so long by Jerry Pero and Ben Stanley, Mike Goldade, Carlos Ricketson, Dennis Kinzer, Doug Bomarito, and others had come true.
It was raining. Fog gathered to slip down and drape around the 2,500 who braved the weather to mark this hoped-for day and anoint it with a thousand recollections of the fallen. Late autumn in Portland. We had been raised in the rain and green and gray of this place.
VIETNAM VETERANS OF OREGON
The name of each Oregonian killed or missing in Vietnam was read aloud over a two-hour period in advance of the ceremony. For many of those present, this struck them as the most potent and most unifying part of a celebration marked by somber relief.
After an artillery piece boomed out the formal start of the dedication, a few speakers who'd played timely roles in the long and winding effort to build the Memorial said things that needed to be said. Later, Steve Mason would read his moving and original poem.
It was a somber celebration, yes, but also an overarching moment of vindication for all who believed in the need for a memorial and came to believe, as well, in the vision and reconciling design of Doug Macy's Living Memorial raised to foster a general healing.
There may have been a ceremony of more emotional impact and more public import in the historical annals of Portland and Oregon than what took place on 11 Nov 1987 in Hoyt Arboretum. If so, such a ceremony did not emerge during our several years of research.
The dominating rain, chill, and gray of late autumn in the Portland area had no real discernible effect on those for whom this Dedication Day meant so much and for which they had worked and prayed and waited for so long while so many Americans turned away.
But one outcome of the ugly weather on 11 Nov 1987 was a decision to move future celebrations to honor our dead and missing (and all who served) from late autumn on Veterans' Day to Memorial Day during late May when the weather tends to be sunny and warm.