In light of the pandemic and the need for social distancing, the Corvallis Memorial Day parade will have a new, old look on Monday, according to Doug Mason, the man behind the parade for many years. This is the 100th anniversary of the parade.
Mason was quite dismayed to find out that Corvallis couldn’t have their traditional parade this year because of COVID-19. So, he looked for a way to still honor those who had fallen in defense of our country.
The parade normally focuses on veterans; there are many floats, horseback riders, politicians and everything associated with a grand time. Neighbors greet neighbors and old friends and lots of visiting goes on.
However, this year’s parade will be a much more somber affair with only the American Legion Honor Guard and veterans marching down the street. This will be very similar to the first parade in 1920.
“It was never our parade,” said Mason. “It’s always been about celebrating our veterans.”
Mason has been involved with the planning of the parade for many years. After retiring from the U.S. Army due to injuries received in two different auto accidents during the 1990s, he came home to the Bitterroot in 2000. The parade and the American Legion Post 91 were all feeling the effects of an aging population without many younger veterans stepping in to help with the parade. Thanks to Mason’s leadership, the Legion and the parade soon thrived.
“This is the first big event of the summer normally,” said Mason.
He retired as a captain but when he first joined the Army, Mason went in as an infantryman. He was deployed during this time to Grenada. After serving his first enlistment, he went back to school and went through ROTC to become an officer. He said he’s been on both sides of the ranks in the Army and feels this gives him good insight on how to get things done.
Mason’s family came to the Bitterroot in the 1880s and established a place outside of Corvallis. His current residence isn’t very far from the original homestead. He said that his upbringing gave him a very strong sense of community. He graduated from Corvallis in 1982 and went immediately into the Army.
Mason said he joined because he wanted to see what was on the other side of the mountains but one has the sense the real reason was to serve his country. During his tenure in the service, he served on almost every continent and across the nation from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Fort Benning, Georgia.
While Mason wanted to increase the American Legion’s participation in the Memorial Day celebration, he didn’t really expect to be at the lead. After returning from a wedding, he found out that he was not only named the commander of the post but also the chairman of the parade committee. But he was happy to do it. He is no longer commander of the post and has tried to step away from the parade duties.
He is very active with the Grizzly Scholarship Association also. Mason is married to Rita and together they have three sons. One is commissioned in the Navy, another has graduated from college, and the youngest is attending the University of Montana where he plans on attending law school.
Prior to the pandemic, Mason and his wife showed Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. He said that this is a campaign just like an Army campaign and as such, he’s not going to shave until his dog wins his championship. Of course, with the current situation, it may be a while before dog shows start up again and he’s a little worried about how bushy his beard may end up.
Memorial Day is a very sacred holiday to Mason. He and his fellow American Legion members and the American Legion Auxiliary spend the weekend making sure that all the veterans laid to rest in the Corvallis Cemetery have white crosses marking their graves. Then, a small American flag is placed at the grave and the grave is saluted. “We want to make sure each and every one of these soldiers is honored.”
After the parade, they return to the cemetery and the list of all of the veterans there is read aloud. Mason said there is a veteran from the 1848 Mexican War buried in the cemetery. Following the reading of the names at the cemetery, the Legion moves to the Woodside Bridge where a wreath is put in the Bitterroot River to honor the Navy personnel who served.
The planning for the parade begins in February but Mason and his fellow veterans never lose sight of the true meaning of the parade and the ceremonies surrounding it. It’s a chance for Mason to give back to his hometown.
“This is where my heart is,” he concluded. “We remember all the old guys, that’s kind of why I like doing things with the Corvallis American Legion.”
Following is the press release that Mason sent out to the media regarding the Memorial Day event:
Corvallis American Legion Post #91 and Auxiliary Unit #91 will host the 100th annual Corvallis Memorial Day Parade at 10:00 a.m. Monday, May 25, 2020. However, this year’s parade will be a little different. Due to the toxic political climate, Post #91 will conduct this year’s parade as they did 100 years ago. At 10:00 am the Post #91 Honor Guard will march south down street of Corvallis, Montana. The parade will be streamed on Facebook Live for people to watch from their homes.
At every event, Corvallis American Legion Post #91 recites The American Legion preamble. In those words we pledge that “we associate ourselves together for the following purposes: To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America;” The post believes in the constitution and personal responsibility, and we hope you do to.
After the parade, at the Corvallis Cemetery at 12:00 pm Post #91 will conduct its annual memorial ceremony. Post members will name all the veterans buried at the cemetery dating back to the Mexican War (1848). After the cemetery ceremony, post members will move to the Woodside Cutoff Bridge and place a wreath in the Bitterroot River for all those who died at sea. The public is invited.
For 100 years the Bitterroot Valley has enjoyed this rich tradition of honoring those active duty personnel and veterans who have died. We honor all of the United States of America’s war dead — those who died that freedom might live.
World War I veterans started the Corvallis Memorial Day parade after they returned from Europe. The first parade consisted of a color guard and veterans, staging in the alley to the west of Main Street. 100 years ago, the first annual Corvallis Memorial Day Parade started south down a dirt Main Street.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. The holiday was first proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan and was observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. Until World War I many people in the South refused to acknowledge Decoration Day. Memorial Day is now celebrated on the last Monday in May.
For more information call Doug Mason at 546-4244, or email [email protected] Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/corvallispost91 or checkout our website at http://corvallispost91.blogspot.com/ .