Robert Mandich. Aberdeen.U.S. Marines. Korea.
Lewis Fisher. Hoquiam. Army Air Corps. WWII. Air Medal.
Jeff Tesreau. Aberdeen. U.S. Army. WWII.
The list of the dead goes on, stretching down the street and through history.
The names of those sons and daughters of Grays Harbor who took up arms in their country’s wars and didn’t return to their home in the hills and trees of Western Washington stretches up and down 1st Street in Cosmopolis, adorning lampposts in solemn memory ahead of Memorial Day.
It was an effort years in the making.
Terry Holderman, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, began collecting the names of the county’s war dead six or seven years ago.
“I did research on the KIAs from Grays Harbor from the Spanish-American War to present,” Holderman said. “I came up with 360 names.”
Initially adorning the wall at the former VFW building, Holderman said that remembering the names is part of recognizing the cost of war.
“I’ve always believed that as soon as the last war is forgotten, we’ll have another one,” Holderman said. “These men, what they did — they deserve to be remembered and honored.”
Now, they’re hung from the lightposts for residents and visitors alike to see. The city of Cosmopolis and VFW Post and Auxiliary 224 will hold a dedication ceremony for the banners on Memorial Day at 2 p.m. at Cosmopolis City Hall where all are welcome.
A passion project
Cosmopolis City Administrator Darrin Raines met Holderman at VFW breakfasts years ago, and expressed interest in hanging the names from Cosmopolis’ lightposts.
“I said, I think we’d be very interested in helping out any way we could with that,” Raines said. “I think it’s very important for people, especially younger people, who don’t know the history of what our forefathers went through, to give us the freedom we’ve got.”
Holderman said that without partnering with Cosmopolis on the project, he wasn’t sure how he’d get the banners made and displayed.
“I didn’t have much hope of getting them out on the streets until meeting up with Darrin,” Holderman said. “My big roadblock with doing it was the cost of the hardware.”
That was about four or five years ago, Raines said, time that Holderman took to look around the memorials and graves of the county to make his list as complete as he could, with help from acquaintances, and to get the banners made.
“I would say it went very smoothly because of Terry,” Raines said. “We had the most easy part of the whole thing.”
The city government in Cosmopolis eagerly supported the project, Raines said, and hopes to continue it and see it expanded, Raines said.
“This is something we want to continue, forever, as long as we can,” Raines said.
Raines hopes following the example of Cosmopolis, other cities in the county will join the project. About 130 of the names are currently hanging in Cosmopolis, Raines said — with other cities participating, they could hang more.
“I think it’s something we definitely want to reach out,” Raines said. “I think it could be a neat project for everyone.”
The work itself, carried out by the city’s public works personnel in the last week, went smoothly, Raines said.
“It worked out even easier than I thought,” Raines said. “We were pretty well prepared. Last winter we put up Christmas decorations so the guys had a good system figured out.”
Cosmopolis had most of the hardware it needed — the cost for a few extra components and labor was less than $2,000, Raines said, calling it money well spent.
“This is something very, very small that I can participate in to bring recognition to those men and women,” Raines said. “I feel very, very lucky.”
Many of the names belong to service members whose bodies never returned home, Holderman said, remaining where they fell in faraway lands.
“It’s just men being heroes. Like the guy who runs through 300 yards of heavy fire to rescue a guy and gets killed,” Holderman said. “You can’t forget about any of them.”
Raines said the banners will remain out until about Labor Day, most likely, with the city taking them down before the rains of autumn begin in earnest. They’ll go up again each year, with the banners hopefully getting 3-5 years of use before replacement, Raines said, though the city will adjust as necessary.
“I want to thank Terry. For all his dedication, for bringing the project forward, for being like a project manager,” Raines said. “Without him it couldn’t have come to fruition.”
Contact Senior Reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know and Go:
What: Memorial banner dedication ceremony
Where: Cosmopolis City Hall
When: May 29 at 2 p.m.