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THE WALL

 


2 photos by Pat Ratliff.  Left, Veterans and families viewing THE WALL. R  Mr Maxwell in uniform 5/25/03
 

 

MAY 25, 2003!  Tulelake! 400 local veterans and their families!  The sound.... a lone voice in the eerily-silent building, reading a seemingly eternal list of names of veterans who fought, and are fighting for, our freedom  Who were they?  They were mostly young boys, in their late teens, from Merrill, Malin, Tulelake and Butte Valley, who fought in wars in foreign countries, and defended attacks on our own soil.  WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, ..........some never came back--and some are still fighting.  But the freedom of their mothers and fathers, brothers, wives, friends and children, was important enough for them to offer their lives. Here was freedom to voice their opinions, freedom to farm, freedom to own property, and freedom to care take our wildlife and natural resources, freedom to live on and make independent and productive 'the land of the free and the home of the brave'.

Who made this day happen?

Cindy Wright, a Klamath Basin native, is director of the Tulelake Butte-Valley fair.  She grew up in the wide open spaces, watching the cattle, the farms, the children thrive in this sweet land of liberty.  She lived to enjoy this community that was built from nothing but a lake bed--no roads, no power, no running water....  Her community was built by mostly veterans who were chosen---drawn from a pickle jar, to come and develop and farm land in the north end of the Klamath Basin.  These men and women knew what it was like in countries that had no freedom.  They knew hard work.  Many lived through the depression...they knew poverty.  They knew hard years, because they came here to live in tents, shacks, barracks, old trailers...any kind of shelter, and the winters were cold.  But their country, their families, and their God were the most important things in the world.  They were not coming for the money, because there was no money.  They were coming for freedom, the wildlife, a piece of land to provide food for their beloved country, and a perfect place to raise a family.  This is where Cindy comes from.

Cindy lived here through the water cut-off of 2001.  She struggled, lost crops, put in an irrigation well...she and her husband farm and ranch.  She cried.  She lived the pain.  And she lived the pain of these American Heroes who created her community.

Not only did she put her life into her community, her farm and her family....she was up until wee hours of the night from the very beginning of this KBC website, 2001.  She wrote articles, took pictures of dying fields and waterfowl, did interviews.  She was truly a founding (mother?) of KBC.  She wanted the world to know the truth about this injustice to the veterans and their families.

But more than that, she had an idea...a thought, of preserving our heritage, her memories, and the fond memories of those before us.  She took an old museum in Tulelake, and, like in the poem (the touch of the Father's hand), she transformed the 'stuff' into a walk through time.  She interviewed dozens of people from the neighboring areas.  She collected old photos.  Military photos.  Military and pioneer stories.  Music.  With a great team from the Tulelake fairgrounds, the new museum was built, and it tells all it could...even with sounds of the times. 

It was missing something...something that grew into THE WALL. 

Which brings us back to  yesterday, May 25, 2003, at the Tulelake fairgrounds, honoring the great-American heroes, and introducing--celebrating THE WALL.  They are from Tulelake, Merrill, Malin and Butte Valley--tiny little towns. Cindy knew those families, those veterans, their descendants.  And now, their memories can live through time.

People came from all over the United States to view THE WALL in the museum.  A country band entertained us after the program, and hors d'oeuvres were catered by Papa T's, from Malin.  Old newspapers were on the walls for settlers to reminisce.  Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren joined in the occasion.  The museum was open for everyone to enjoy, including the Japanese barracks decorated to show the homes of the WWII homesteaders.  In the museum, many watched the film, "Homesteading in a Promised Land," in which the Tulelake settlers tell the 100-year story of building the community and living in the Tulelake Basin.

Thank you, every veteran, for fighting for our "land of the free."  You made it that way for Cindy...for all of us, our children and grandchildren.  We pray that we have the strength to defend that freedom as bravely as you did.

And thank you Cindy.  Thank you.

(Due to the high interest in this project, another wall is being built, so if the veteran is from Malin, Merrill, Tulelake or Butte Valley, and is/was a veteran of a foreign war, you may have the name &/or portrait etched into polished marble as part of the Tulelake-Butte Valley Museum of Local History "Veterans' Wall." Call Cindy at the Fair office, 530-667-5312, for prices and details.)

 
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