SUNNYSIDE — It was like a well-planned military field exercise, which began before the sun would fully light up the peaceful grounds for members of the VFW, American Legion and AMVETS, along with the public this past Saturday.

They were respectfully mustering at Lower Valley Memorial Gardens to place more than 1,500 American flags on the graves of all veterans buried in Sunnyside.

More than 50 volunteers took part in the gathering, opening Memorial Day weekend of remembrance activities that inspired patriotic participants to answer the two-hour call of duty at 7800 Van Belle Road.

For Sunnyside High School senior Oscar Macias, he chose to pay his respect for those who served and had made the ultimate sacrifice to their country, prior to reporting for active duty into the United States Marine Corps in a couple of months.

“My family ancestors until now, like we were poor and always farmers and couldn’t go to school. And, my family is first generation here in the United States that’s able to go to school. My sisters, brothers and cousins are all able to attend universities,” Macias honorably revealed, while he searched for S.O. Record’s cemetery marker and learned that he was a Civil War veteran.

“And, so like the country gave my family an opportunity to be something more than peasants and farmers. In my eyes, they helped my family, and now, I want to help them back.”

The soon-to-be infantry marine recruit discovered first-hand about Sunnyside veterans and the history of distinguished service as he experienced the importance of this time-honored tradition for decorating their graves with a colorful springtime tribute.

“I was curious about the Army and wanted to learn about the military,” explained SHS freshman and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) member Marissa Galvan, sharing why she joined the program at the beginning of the school year. “I love the class, honestly. And, it’s made me think about my future and possibly joining the Army. But, that’s just me.”

The JROTC representative acknowledged that this was her first time paying tribute and helping to memorialize local veterans. She was unaware of any relatives who may have served.

Galvan said she wanted to be a part of something like this and decided to lend a hand.

Rosa Hoffman and her son, Adam Rudeseal, were sharing in the admiration of honoring area military personnel with a vibrant graveside gesture.

“I think Sunnyside has been one of the more patriotic and servicing more of their veterans than anybody I’ve seen,” Hoffman conveyed, while she’s been coast to coast and working as a traveling nurse, presently in Sunnyside for the past three years.

“It’s a big deal. A lot of people tend to forget our vets, especially on Memorial Day. The living ones and the ones that have passed away,” Rudeseal expressed while he fondly remembered his dad who recently passed.

“I basically grew up in the military,” he laughed because both his mom and dad served in the Army.

Rudeseal was asked to recall what he remembers most strongly about his dad.

“He was dedicated to the military, for sure. Absolutely dedicated!”

The gravesite flags flew strong until 6 p.m. on Memorial Day.

That was the time when volunteers would again muster to retrieve the colorful ensigns and stow them away securely for next year.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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