The Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington Park

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice signed by the Allied nations and Germany took effect, essentially ending the conflict we now call World War I. Since 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, November 11 has served as a day to honor those who fought in the Great War. As time went on, and the US was involved in a second World War and subsequent conflicts around the globe, Congress in 1954 changed the name of the observance to Veterans Day. 

Today, in Oregon, Veterans Day celebrations are marked with marches, parades, and special events. Across the state you’ll find a handful of’ memorials dedicated to casualties of the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the Korean War, Desert Storm, and others. Here is a by-no-means complete list of some of the memorials in Portland and across the state. For a more in-depth list, visit the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Japanese American Historical Plaza at the Tom McCall Waterfront Parking during the Cherry Blossom bloom

Japanese American Historical Plaza

Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 98 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland

Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a favorite locale in the spring for the cherry blossoms decorating the northwest end. Alongside the dazzling trees you’ll also find Robert Murase’s Japanese American Historical Plaza, which illustrates Japanese history in Oregon, particularly during World War II when many Japanese Americans in the West were subjected to internment camps. It also honors the many Japanese Americans who served in the US Armed Forces while their families back home were in the camps. The plaza, dedicated in 1990, features poems by Lawson Inada, Shizue Iwatsuki, Masaki Kinoshita, and Hisako Saito inscribed in stone, with the final stone featuring an excerpt from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 with an apology for the unlawful imprisonment of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

The Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Washington Park

Oregon Holocaust Memorial & Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Washington Park, 403 SW Canyon Rd, Portland

The Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial (pictured at top), designed by Portland landscape architecture firm Walker Macy and inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, lies at the heart of Washington Park. The monument’s path spirals up and out, with granite walls listing the names of Oregon residents who died in Vietnam or who are missing in action. Just a short walk away is the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. Dedicated in August 2004, the memorial features bronze casts of shoes, glasses, a suitcase, and other items representing what was left behind by Jewish families before being forced into concentration camps. Behind stone placards offering a brief history of the Holocaust and quotes from survivors, a wall is engraved with names of people who died in the camps, and names of their surviving relatives in the Pacific Northwest.

Willamette National Cemetery

11800 SE Mt Scott Blvd, Happy Valley

One of three national cemeteries in Oregon, including Rosebud and Eagle Point in Douglas and Jackson Counties, respectively, the Willamette National Cemetery was established in 1951, one year into the Korean War. The cemetery is home to the Oregon Korean Veterans Memorial, a site with a series of black granite walls that memorialize the 283 Oregon servicepeople who perished during the conflict. The cemetery also honors four Medal of Honor recipients (pictured above) and includes the grave of former Oregon governor and US Senator Mark O. Hatfield.

Veterans Memorial Park in Klamath Falls

Veterans Park

Main Street & Klamath Avenue, Klamath Falls

This three-acre recreational park, located where the Klamath River widens into Lake Ewauna, features a veterans memorial constructed through a mostly volunteer effort and community donations. The area is laid with more than 5,000 bricks (available for $50) honoring living and dead veterans who have served in the US Armed Forces, Coast Guard, and Wartime Merchant Marine. The park is also home to a display of Locomotive #2579, which was used by the Southern Pacific Railroad and retired from service in 1956. 

Veterans Park in Medford

Veterans Park

1601 S Pacific Hwy, Medford 

This park, managed by Medford Parks & Recreation, has a history that dates back to 1919. The story goes that after World War I, a man named Paul Rynning planted a maple tree in honor of a friend who had been killed in the war. In the next few years, others followed suit, and by 1921 more than 100 maple trees had been planted by locals to honor a loved one who had died in the war. A monument to World War I vets was erected in 1966, and was later joined by others honoring those who served in World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

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