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Day: June 6, 2014

Playing his way to Utah

McNary High School senior Alex Hunter is headed to the University of Utah as a music education major on a full-ride scholarship. (Submitted)
McNary High School senior Alex Hunter is headed to the University of Utah as a music education major on a full-ride scholarship. (Submitted)

Of the Keizertimes

Next fall, McNary High School senior Alex Hunter is headed to the University of Utah, but neither he nor his family will be worried about footing the bill.

Hunter, a valedictorian and trombone player in the Celtic band, symphony and jazz band, netted a full-ride academic scholarship from U of U and numerous local scholarship awards that will help cover the various extraneous costs like books and fees.

“I started applying in November, but I already had a number of them prepared before the opening date,” Hunter said. “The biggest thing was just planning to apply because it meant I didn’t have to scramble once I got accepted.”

As a music education major, Hunter had the added task of auditioning for several of the colleges he hoped to attend.

“You have to prepare solos or etudes (short, difficult compositions) to be considered, but I got the chance to visit Utah and take a lesson from one of their faculty members. I really enjoyed that and meeting some of the other faculty,” Hunter said. He hopes to do graduate work in jazz performance.

Hunter started playing trombone in the fifth grade, and found something in it that spoke to him.

“No matter how I’m feeling, I can go pick up my horn and play and it comes out in the music,” Hunter said. “It’s really comfortable.”

Of course, he had the same struggles the many beginning music students face: finding the will to practice.

“For the longest time, the hardest part was opening the case and pulling out my instrument, but by the end of freshman year something had changed. I realized I wasn’t working as hard as I could at it and decided to give it more. That was the point practicing became more like just playing to play. It was no longer a chore,” Hunter said.

In addition to working with three high school music groups, Hunter takes private lessons in Portland and spends a not inconsiderable amount of time simply listening to other players. Stan Bock, his private lesson tutor, Carl Fontana, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and JJ Johnson are a few of his most recent influences.

“With some of the older stuff, I can spend hours looking for a single recording,” Hunter said.

Combining rigorous academic work and practice was rarely a hurdle for Hunter, who said he likes to push himself whenever he can. The highlight of his time as a Celtic was the band’s third place finish at the state competition in May.

“Being a drum major, I really enjoyed that,” he said. “We gelled as a group and our senior class had been playing together since the fifth grade. Even the ones that went to Claggett Creek Middle School we were friends before we got there. It was truly like a family.” Hunter attended Whiteaker Middle School.

Classmates, he said, contributed as much as teachers to his musical education.

“With every group, you can come in with one opinion and end up totally changed by the end of practice. It made me a lot more well-rounded,” he said.

Hunter is prepared to meet the various challenges in store for him head-on. He’s actually more than a little excited at the prospect of it all.

“The Utah campus is right next to the mountains, I get to show up early and practice with the band before school is even open, I’ll get to travel with the football team. It’s all really exciting, but I’m most looking forward to a fresh start without having to go backward,” he said.

Egli not running for mayor

J. Egli
J. Egli

Of the Keizertimes

Will anyone battle Cathy Clark for mayor?

Clark, the longtime Keizer City Councilor, announced early this year she will be running for the Keizer mayor seat being vacated after 14 years by Lore Christopher.

For months, a big question had been whether current council president Joe Egli – who filed for mayor but then dropped out in 2012 – would run.

The answer came this week when Egli announced he will not be running for either mayor or council.

“I’ve been contemplating it the last three or four months,” Egli told the Keizertimes. “I had some things to take care of. I felt it was the best decision for me and my family not to run at this time.”

Egli said he made the decision last Saturday and first told wife Shelly.

“I was kind of leaning that way already,” Egli said. “She was very supportive and has been from day one, either way.”

Egli, an agent at R. Bauer Insurance, said two main factors played into his decision.

“Honestly, it was my workload,” he said. “I’m an independent business person. The more involved I am in the community, the less service that I can give to my customers. It’s important to do a good job at work and with family. I have a daughter at McNary and a son going into McNary (in the fall). That absolutely factors in. They were excited for me to run for mayor, but I don’t know that they understood the whole impact.”

Egli, who has been council president since January 2013, noted it was a hard call to make.

“It’s a tough decision. It’s always a tough decision,” he said. “I had a lot of people come in and encourage me to run, especially since Cathy announced. Quite a few people were encouraging me to run. I never actually decided (to run) this time.”

In addition to currently serving as Iris Festival chair, Egli is past president of both Keizer Rotary and the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. He expects to still be involved with the community.

“I have a lot of history here and respect the history of Keizer a lot,” he said. “I think the citizens appreciate that. If you’re connected with the people in town, that’s a big part of being mayor and being able to lead the city. I would have done well as mayor.”

For the most part, Egli plans to keep doing what he’s doing now, minus the council post.

“I might do some planning,” he said. “Planning is very interesting to me, so I might apply for the Planning Commission. I will stay active. You will definitely be seeing me around.”

The filing period for interested Keizer candidates began on Wednesday and continues through Aug. 26. Clark picked up her packet Monday evening. Brandon Smith has already announced he will running for the council seat being vacated by Jim Taylor. Clark running for mayor means her current council seat is up for grabs. Roland Herrera has announced he’s running for council, while Matt Chappell has indicated he’ll be running as well.

The council seats currently held by Egli, Clark and Taylor are on four-year terms, while the mayoral position is a two-year term.

So in two years might Egli be interested in running again?

“That’s always a possibility,” said Egli, who plans to watch council meetings on TV come January. “It’s not anything to consider until the time.”

Poison oak issue resolved

A tree with poison oak behind the t-ball field at Keizer Little League Park was fenced off May 29. The tree was removed last weekend. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
A tree with poison oak behind the t-ball field at Keizer Little League Park was fenced off May 29. The tree was removed last weekend. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The continued presence of poison oak by a local baseball field ignited some anger.

A city councilor’s offhand comment about it on Facebook simply fanned the flames.

The poison oak was discovered last month growing over a fence and onto the t-ball field in the northwest corner of the Keizer Little League Park. Keizer Little League is managing the park this year, after the Keizer Youth Sports Association (KYSA) had managed the complex the last few years. The poison oak was taken down last weekend.

Roger Schneider, in his first year of coaching son Mason’s t-ball team through the KYSA, said he first alerted KLL president Stephanie Bojorquez about the problem in mid-May.

“I first told Stephanie on May 16,” Schneider told the Keizertimes last week. “My father was also there and he found out who to tell. Stephanie was very nice at first. She said she would have her maintenance guy look at it and would do something about it, no problem.”

Schneider, whose seven-month pregnant wife became covered over much of her body with poison oak, was alarmed by what he saw at the field later.

“We had a game there about a week later,” Schneider said. “It was exactly the same. I thought maybe they didn’t know what to look for. Another week later, it’s still there. So I walked up to her and said, ‘Hey Stephanie, it’s sad no one has taken care of it and the kids are still playing there.’ She said, ‘I can’t do anything about it. I don’t know what to tell you.’”

Bojorquez said the tree with the poison oak is on private property, thus she couldn’t do anything. Bojorquez noted she contacted city officials after the first conversation. However, both Keizer city manager Chris Eppley and Public Works director Bill Lawyer said they didn’t hear about the problem until last May 29.

“It’s hanging over,” Bojorquez said of the poison oak. “It was too big. It’s like a tree. It’s growing like mad.”

On the morning of May 29, Robert Johnson, parks supervisor for Keizer, erected a temporary fence to keep children out of the area.

“The property owner has been contacted and requested to remedy the situation right away,” Eppley said. “We can’t spray chemicals or trim trees that aren’t on public property and trimming the limbs that overhang the park wouldn’t solve the issue.”

Lawyer noted city officials were limited in what they could do.

“We took action on what we could do,” Lawyer said. “This is a neighbor’s responsibility. Poison oak is not easy to get rid of.”

Bojorquez, who has been exposed to the poison oak twice herself and had to get medical steroids as a result, noted she spoke with Johnson after the fencing was put up.

“Robert told me the tree is huge,” she said. “It’s not a bush anymore, it’s a tree so you wouldn’t think it was poison oak.”

However, Schneider was upset nothing had been done in two weeks and shared his frustrations on Facebook.

“It’s roughly 15 feet away from the bleachers behind the backstop,” Schneider wrote in part. “I will not support anything to do with KLL ever again. We are not happy they don’t want to do anything about it. (Their) web site states that their sports complex is a fun and safe environment for kids. Please share and get the word out.”

Schneider encouraged others to share his message and said that’s what led to two Portland TV stations coming to Keizer for stories on the issue. Schneider said his wife, Danielle, could have gotten poisoned by touching the clothes of their children, who had been playing in the area.

“The only thing that’s been any different lately is the swelling has gone down a bit,” Schneider said on May 30. “It’s been almost three weeks now. It’s terrible.”

Schneider called contacting the property owner “a step in the right direction,” but questioned why permission would be necessary.

“You can’t tell me a property owner would be mad if you took care of a problem on their property,” he said. “Is there one property owner in America that would be upset about you taking care of the problem?”

Mayor Lore Christopher shared a link to the Keizertimes’ original web story on the issue on her Facebook page early May 30, along with a warning to be careful.

The first response came from city councilor Jim Taylor.

“Quick, someone call CNN. This could be a terrorist plot,” Taylor wrote.

The attempt at humor backfired and fanned the flames.

“Shame on you Councilman Taylor!” Jake Martin wrote early Friday afternoon. “The guy you are mocking is a volunteer and warned of the danger for two weeks prior to going to the press!”

Schneider emphasized the TV stations contacted him, not the other way around.

“I still have a hard time seeing anything funny or a joking matter about terrorism or kids and families’ health,” he wrote.

Others went further.

“It’s a shame that we have people like Jim Taylor representing our city!” Stephanie Chike wrote. “That is a pathetic post he owes Roger and his family a apology and the city of Keizer.”

Tyler Hansen wrote he hoped Christopher could “put her joker in check before someone else does” while Brett Chatfield also urged action.

“He should be forced to be removed from his position before the day is over!” Chatfield wrote. “Are you OK with having someone (holding) public office who makes light of terrorism Mayor? I would like a response!”

Later in the afternoon, Christopher started posting updates on efforts to take down the tree.

“We will get this taken care of ASAP,” Christopher wrote, noting Lawyer had contacted the property owner that afternoon. “We are all very concerned when someone is harmed, including Councilor Taylor. Folks, we are working to take care of this as quickly as we can. I am as concerned for this family as I would be for my own. We will get this fixed, I will not rest until we do. Until then don’t go near that tree.”

Shortly before 5 p.m. on May 30, Christopher posted another update.

“We have secured permission to remove the tree,” the mayor wrote. “R and R Tree Service has (been) hired and the tree will be removed this weekend.”

A few minutes later, Taylor returned to explain his previous post.

“My comment wasn’t in any way minimizing my concern for the mother’s discomfort,” he wrote. “As one who has had poison oak over my entire body I know how miserable it is. My comment was directed at the Portland news media. This is a local issue that is being taken care of.”

Not everyone liked that response.

“Jim, no matter who your comment was intended for, it was inappropriate and unprofessional,” Ruth Wafford wrote. “You should simply apologize for being insensitive and putting your foot in your mouth attempting to be funny or sarcastic or whatever it was that you are attempting. Epic fail.”

Christopher brought up the topic at the end of Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting.

“It was very concerning to all of us,” she said. “Bill did outstanding work. We were able to get a tree service there, R and R Tree Service. Heads up to them, they got someone dispatched. They got the tree down. It was private property, so it took a while to get approval. It’s been done and everyone is safe at Keizer Little League Park again.”

Taylor noted he showed R and R employees the problem area last Friday night.

“We did it then so people could come Saturday morning and use the facility,” he said.

Lawyer said on Tuesday property owner Country Club Investments has committeed to reimbursing the city for the cost of cutting the tree down.

Debate still noisy over tow trucks

Mayor Lore Christopher (left) talks with Jeff Asher from B.C. Towing about one of the towing company's newer tow trucks with a diesel engine that runs much quieter than older diesels. Noise has been one of the concerns expressed in the ongoing debate over allowing tow trucks to park in Keizer neighborhoods. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Mayor Lore Christopher (left) talks with Jeff Asher from B.C. Towing about one of the towing company’s newer tow trucks with a diesel engine that runs much quieter than older diesels. Noise has been one of the concerns expressed in the ongoing debate over allowing tow trucks to park in Keizer neighborhoods. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

The debate over tow trucks parking in Keizer neighborhoods heated up once again Monday.

Discussion has been ongoing in recent months and was the subject of a special hour-long public forum in front of the Keizer City Council. A city ordinance approved in 2005 makes it illegal for a vehicle more than 10,000 pounds in Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) to be parked on the street.

While some on Monday wanted to see if a compromise could be reached, others weren’t interested. Chief among them was John Blake, a Clearview Court resident who also spoke on the issue in April. Blake spoke after Ron Duncan and Jeff Asher from B.C. Towing spoke, with Duncan stating mudholes mentioned by Blake in April were caused by a Chevrolet Silverado, not a tow truck. Duncan also emphasized his driver living on Clearview was talked to.

“You need to come out and see what’s been done,” Blake said. “They’re parking in front of a flower bed. These guys have no business in this town. They can’t fix the mess they made. The truck in the picture (Duncan showed) belongs to one of his employees. I don’t know what to do about it. I just heard his lies.

“He parked on a water meter and broke it,” Blake added of Duncan’s employee. “They have absolutely no respect for nobody. You ought to throw what you’re working on in the garbage can. Those people deserve nothing.”

Blake refuted Duncan’s statement things were being cleaned up.

“I was told the hole was being fixed,” Blake said. “I’m tired of being lied to. (Duncan) just told me the same thing. They don’t deserve the right to park in town.”

Mayor Lore Christopher explained the reason for the meeting.

“What we’re deciding tonight is whether to allow (tow trucks) in the neighborhoods,” she said.

Blake had a predictable answer.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said. “You don’t want people like me coming down here.”

As Blake returned to his seat, he glared at the B.C. Towing employees sitting in the back.

“Should have fixed your mess,” Blake growled.

Jeff Kelder noted problems with a tow truck in his neighborhood 10 years ago led to the 2005 ordinance.

“I was so grateful the mayor and council passed the ordinance that greatly increased the livability in my neighborhood,” Kelder said. “Now we’re back again. House values will be significantly declined when trucks are parked in front. Tow trucks harm the curb appeal of all homes in a neighborhood. Is this what we desire for Keizer neighborhoods?”

Rhonda Rich, president of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association, noted the topic was brought up at the May 8 WKNA meeting.

“The general consensus was to not allow this,” Rich said. “The question is why is the change even being considered? It seems like this is a convenience for tow truck drivers above others. The concerns that were valid in 2005 still exist, like safety.”

Rich was one of several people asking if empty lots, such as the Safeway parking lot on River Road, could be utilized.

Noise and visibility have been two frequently cited issues with tow trucks. Another impact is the Keizer Police Department’s requirement that tow trucks respond to a scene within 15 minutes of being called. Due to that, tow truck operators questioned parking tow trucks in empty lots.

“The driver would still have to drive to there,” Asher said. “I would also have to worry about the security of the truck. One thing about taking a truck home, it’s close so you don’t worry.”

Asher said diesel noise isn’t an issue with cleaner burning trucks from 2010 or newer.

“Noise was a concern back then,” Asher said. “But you can’t tell my diesel tow truck from your car.”

Christopher didn’t look or sound convinced.

“Really?” she asked somewhat incredulously.

“Really,” Asher replied. “I can bring one down.”

That was indeed arranged. After the forum, councilors and city staff went to the Keizer Civic Center parking lot and agreed newer trucks are indeed much quieter.

Duncan noted 10 of his 12 trucks have the quieter diesel engines.

Bill Dyke, one of Blake’s neighbors, noted the noise wasn’t the issue.

“First and foremost, this is a residential area,” Dyke said. “The reasoning behind the 2005 legislation is sound. You’re opening up a Pandora’s Box if you allow trucks to park on the streets. There is a vision issue with tow truck there. That is not safe. If tow trucks have that much business, you should find a place to park them.”

Liz Rumelhart from Wiltse Towing said back-up beepers are a federal law, but she wouldn’t be opposed to having a switch or pulling a fuse for night time use.

“I would request you allow us to park trucks in driveways, not on the street,” she said. “I’m trying to resolve the issues for both sides. It would resolve our issue and it also helps with visibility.”

Like Asher, Rumelhart had concerns about trucks being parked in empty lots.

“We have a lot of equipment on the trucks,” she said. “If you put the gear in toolboxes, you would extend the time of a tow (response) by 10 minutes probably. I know the weight (of a modern tow truck) seems huge, but a one-ton truck weighs 12,000 to 14,000 pounds. I could not afford to have a truck sitting in an area where it could be stripped.”

Police Chief John Teague said using the secured parking lot at the Keizer Police Department would “be a hassle” for everyone and offered a possible compromise.

“Part of what drives all of this is the 15-minute response time,” he said. “If we allow 30 minutes from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., would that solve it?”

Christopher asked for the topic to be on the agenda for the June 16 city council meeting.

To the Class of 2014

High school and college graduates, you’ll hear a lot of words at your ceremonies. Words about choice, duty, dreams and the lot. Above all, listen to the words in your heart. Be productive, be kind and be happy.

You’ll be congratulated for navigating years of high school or college; you’ll be told that you are the future and that the future is in good hands because of you and your peers across the nation.

There will be variations on the theme of becoming whatever you set your heart to; you will be told that you’re special and you live in America, the land of opportunity.

Many of your peers want to be rich and famous. Not all of you will be famous and not all of you will be rich, let alone superrich. There is always the possibility you can be both; it’s all up to you. Fame and riches are not easily bestowed, both must be earned. If you want to be rich and famous you have taken the first step: getting an education.

Millions of people live a life well worth examining without the benefit of renown or wealth. Lives without those two things can yet be bountiful if it includes the search for truth and beauty (scholasticism and art).

One of man’s unalienable rights is the pursuit of happiness. There is more to happiness than the latest technological gadget or sleeping in. Happiness is how we define it for ourselves; let no other person define what makes you happy.

Strive to live a life that is worth examining. Contribute to society, be kind to, and tolerant of, those different from yourself. Leave any place better than how you found it. Being the best person you can be will lead to happiness and contentment.

Those graduating from high school probably have their eye set on a course of study in college or a career. Keep an open mind; things change. Some college students end up having numerous majors before settling on one that was never in the mix at the beginning of college.

Keep an open mind about a career that uses your hands and will be needed. Many choose to study business or marketing;  but the nation will face a shortage of plumbers, electricians and other trades within 10 years. A career in the trades may not be glamorous but it is honorable, necessary, and makes for a nice living.

The world has changed since you started school in the first grade. The world will change even more in the coming decade. Being part of that change can be a rewarding career path via public service. There is no nobler position than one that is in the service of people.  Be it a career in politics, social services, or government service, public service is a path less taken but rewarding on its own.

Graduates, listen to what people tell you as you leave school, but listen to your heart. That’s where your future lies.


Bring history alive

Several years ago the Oral History of Keizer project was going strong. Led by the Keizer Points of Interest Committee, older Keizerites were interviewed on camera about our city.

Interviewed subjects talked about the origins of Keizer’s cherished organizations such as Keizer Little League the Keizer Rotary Club and the Keizer Rural Fire District.

This project should not die; there is more history that can be preserved for future generations. History tells us where we’ve been and who we were.

Some people, especially those who have lived here for 20 years or less, can look around our city and think there is no history here. The Keizer Points of Interest Committe has done a good job of identifying important sites in Keizer dating back to the 1800s. Sure, there is no remnants of Thomas Dove Keizur’s homestead, but there is a sign placed where it was located, at what is now Chemawa and River Roads, in front of Shari’s Restaurant.

Oral history of our city just as important as signs pointing out what was here more than 100 years ago. Those who can remember what live in Keizer was like back in the 1940s and 1950s should be encouraged to take part in the project.

Nothing makes history come alive more than the memories of those who lived it. It is important to commit those memories to film. The Points of Interest Committee along with the Keizer Heritage Museum should re-energize the project and assure that those who lived and made Keizer’s mid-20th century history become part of the record of our times.


KLL poison oak

To the Editor:

I think it’s funny to read the sanitized version of what happened regarding the poison oak at Keizer Little League field.  The coach had no problem leaving his name, along with his poor wife’s picture covered in poison oak.  He tried for nearly two weeks talking to league officials and got nowhere until it was brought to Facebook and the attention of the city officials.

Thank you to the City of Keizer for fencing it off.  That’s a good start.

Jeanne Fredrickson

A vision for Keizer Rapids Park

To the Editor:

With the advent of bringing 58 acres of park land at Keizer Rapids Park into Keizer’s urban growth boundary, there is a great opportunity to revise the current plan and master plan the new acreage, “the filbert orchard area.”

The city council and the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board are looking for input on amenities to be included in the park.

The West Keizer Neighborhood Association will be holding a Special meeting on Thursday, June 12, at Keizer Civic Center at 7 p.m.  The focus of the meeting will be  to gather input on what amenities the WKNA members would like to see at Keizer Rapids Park.

For more information, go to Please come to the meeting to ddshare your vision for the new Keizer Rapids Park”.

Rhonda Rich

What has become of wisdom?

A Box of Soap

Each day I expect to answer the bell and find wisdom on my doorstep, ready to move in.  With age was supposed to come wisdom.  Age has found me and is comfortably settled in but wisdom is somewhere delayed.

“Many persons might have attained to wisdom had they not assumed they had already possessed it”-—Seneca.

Our Bartlett’s book of quotations shows signs of much use.  I turn to it when wondering what actual wise people have to say about just about everything.  For a person too shiftless to read the great thinkers it’s the next best thing.  The notable thing about the best wisdom quotes is that none of them are contemporary.  Wisdom is not trending right now.

“There is danger that if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the Constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”—Robert H. Jackson.

The Supreme Court should have the best and wisest legal minds in America.  They have decided that corporations are persons and money is speech.  See if you can find any “practical wisdom” in that. A strong majority of Americans believe it unwise.  Even if you give them the benefit of the doubt to assume that the narrow majority came to this decision strictly on the basis of constitutional law, it is wrong.  “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” —Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Last night on PBS Joseph Stiglitz described the floor of the House of Representatives as a bordello for lobbyists and PACs.  That’s funny and sad.  Any laws that do pass through this constipated Congress have big money as the principal softener.  The Supreme Court is aiding and abetting.

“In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it—thou art a fool.”—Lord Chesterfield.

Republican state house nominee Bill Post publicly avowed disgust that took his breath away for District 25 voters, then added that these worthless lazy Americans get what they deserve.  We surely got what we deserved: Bill Post as Republican candidate in a Republican-leaning district.  My ballot had twelve boxes to fill, all of them candidates running unopposed. Voters registered as Unaffiliated or Democrat were left little to vote on.  That could explain some of the low turnout. The 12candidates on my ballot may have felt better about themselves had I added my vote, but I didn’t mail it in.  As it happens I am a little lazy and worthless, but Mr. Post doesn’t know me well enough to say so, and possibly shouldn’t have assumed he knew why the rest of us didn’t vote.

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”— Theodore Rubin.

This is the most contemporary of the quotes cited, and rings truest for me.  The Seven Deadly Sins have been used in Christian teachings for centuries.  Pride is most often seen as the deadliest sin. The opposite of pride is humility.  Humility and kindness are an inseparable pair compelling you to put others before yourself.  If I am ever able to put this into practice I’ll be a success.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”—Socrates.

My progress at learning how little I know is progressing so nicely that I’ll soon be at Zen-level wisdom. I guess I’ll stop fretting and go back to looking at Facebook.  That should protect me from learning anything.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer. He gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)   

The most important day was the longest

There were 36,525 days in the 20th century.  Which one stands out to you as most important?  My choice is “The Longest Day.”

Arguably, one day among all the days in previous centuries can be singled out as most important. Some would say of the 1800s, for example, that it was July 3, 1863, and the Battle of Gettysburg.  In the 1700s, it’d have to be July 4, 1776. Then there’s October 12, 1492, the day Christopher Columbus first caught sight of the New World, and June 19, 1215, the day King John signed the Magna Carta, establishing a rule of law and the founding of the rights of free men.

Of course, “The Longest Day” is June 6, 1944.  We celebrate it today, June 6, 2014, on its 70th anniversary.  The largest armada in world history got underway early that June day when the English Channel was crossed by ships and planes that carried more than 100,000 American, British and Canadian troops.

In a radio broadcast later that day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the invasion against the “unholy forces of our enemy.”  He hoped for a great victory that would result in a seismic shift for the world’s nations toward democratic principles and practices rather than dictatorships.

Along with prayers for success, Roosevelt and the Allies knew, after five years of exhausting war, that, if the greatest amphibious operation should fail, it’d be war-exhausted difficult to go back to the drawing board and start over again.  Then, too, the intervening time would enable the Nazis to erect an even more impenetrable Europe and further develop weapons that already had the Allies in a cold sweat.

So, there was no backup plan: Communications between Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower and American General Omar Bradley read that “this operation is not being planned with any alternatives.”  After many agonizing sessions between and among the leaders of the Allied forces, Winston Churchill among them, over where to land the invasion forces, including sites from Norway to southern France, Normandy was chosen to strike at “Fortress Europe.”

Normandy was generally considered the least likely spot in the German mind and therefore afforded the Allies the opportunity for a measure of surprise.  Surprise was critically important for Operation Overlord’s success for many reasons, including a logistics problem for the Nazis with their battalions concentrated elsewhere, to rush reinforcements from elsewhere to the landing sites.

Of course, though there were great risks and challenges to the Allies, it was a well planned attack and, astonishingly enough, remained a secret as there were several elaborate efforts designed to mislead the Nazi Wehrmacht.  Whatever the case, it was one of the biggest military gambles of all time.  With considerable loss of life, the Allies ultimately gained a foothold in France and headed thereafter east into Germany with Berlin the biggest target.  Almost a year after the Normandy landings, on May 7, 1945, the Third Reich surrendered to the Allies.

It required extraordinary courage, bravery, valor and boldness to face the shore and the entrenched German army as the Allied troops did on that fateful day, knowing full well for each that it could very well be his last day.  Yet, with jaw set, each proceeded into harm’s way.  June 6, 1944, the date that sealed the beginning of the end of one Axis power was soon followed by the fall of the Empire of Japan in August, 1945, thereby securing in victory the protection and preservation of the U.S. and all the world’s democracies.

All Americans owe a huge debt to those who fought that day.  A lasting tribute to them is to forever remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, being grateful, now and always, to those who survived and those who did not, that they were willing to face death to save our nation and the freedom-loving American people.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)