Sunset Gardens hosts their 50th annual Memorial Day Event

RICHLAND, Wash. – Monday morning was a beautiful, emotional and rainy day in Richland at Sunset Gardens as hundreds of people honored those who died in the armed forces for Memorial Day.

The cemetery hosted speakers, free food and music at the events center, and skydivers carrying a 2,500 square foot American flag. Despite all of the activities, the first thing you’d notice when entering Sunset Gardens, is the Avenue of Flags.

Every traditional American flag displayed at Sunset Gardens was given to a veteran’s family, and donated back to Sunset Gardens to hold and maintain. Each has a name plate, and first-year-flyers have a ribbon to indicate such. The flags fly for 24 hours on Memorial Day.

“It’s just as powerful to me today as it was the very first time that I witnessed it,” said Holley Sowards, the Director of Funeral Operations.

According to Sowards, between 30 and 50 employees and volunteers showed up at 4 and 5 a.m. on Memorial Day to begin setting the flags, each one to honor a veteran in the community.

The Avenue of Flags is a longtime tradition of Sunset Gardens.

“We started out, back 50 years ago with 99 flags our first year,” said Sowards. “Our founders of Sunset Gardens actually started the first Memorial Day program one year after it became a federally recognized holiday.”

According to Sowards, weather permitting, there’s a reason it’s called ‘Sunset Gardens.’

“The best time actually to come out is closer to sunset and it is a lot quieter out here during that time,” Sowards said.

The keynote speaker at the event was Scott Jacobs, retired NCIS investigator, who recalled his service to the country and shared experiences from his time in counterintelligence.

Richland’s mayor, Michael Alvares, and Representative Dan Newhouse were in attendance at the event.

The semicentennial event is for people to honor those who gave their lives in the U.S. military, and the patriotism in Richland was tangible.

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