Military Trivia by Carl Kurfess 

Last ditch effort

Last ditch effort 

Final and determined attempt. 

In 16th and 17th century warfare when armies were preparing the ground for a pitched battle, they would dig several lines of trenches in case they needed to retreat and regroup in prepared positions. If the men found themselves in the last ditch they had no option other than to fight where they stood or to die. 

The Balloon went up

The Balloon went up 

Indication of imminent trouble 

Before a World War I infantry attack, artillery would soften up the target area. Before opening fire, observation balloons were sent aloft to observe and correct aim. This obviously alerted the troops in the trenches that it would not be long before they would be sent over the top to attack. So “the balloon went up” came to mean imminent trouble. 

Parting shot 

Parting shot 

Cutting remark issued on departure. 

The army of the Parthian dynasty of Persia (modern Iran) had a number of lightly equipped horse archers. They were extremely skillful and one of their tactics was to fake a retreat and then turn in their saddle and cut down pursuers with an unexpected shot. Over time, the expression has changed from “Parthian shot” to “parting shot”. 

Works cited Donald, G., Wiest, A., & Shepherd, W. (2013). S”cklers, Sideburns and Bikinis: The military origins of everyday words and phrases. Bloomsbury Publishing.


We recently ran across this poem, by a unknown author, which is a sort of sailor’s version of Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”. While we don’t for a moment mean to denigrate the Colonel’s wonderful piece, this does present a different point of view. There are a lot of sailors resting out there with no chance of a grave marker. 



In ocean waves no poppies blow, 
No crosses stand in ordered row. 
There young hearts sleep… beneath the wave… 
The spirited, the good, the brave, 
But stars a constant vigil keep, 
For them who lie beneath the deep. 

‘Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer 
On certain spot and think. “He’s there.” 
But you can to the ocean go… 
See whitecaps marching row on row; 
Know one for him will always ride… 
In and out… with every tide. 

And when your span of life is passed, 
He’ll meet you at the “Captain’s Mast.” 

And they who mourn on distant shore
For sailors who’ll come home no more, 
Can dry their tears and pray for these 
Who rest beneath the heaving seas… 
For stars that shine and winds that blow 
And whitecaps marching row on row. 

And they can never lonely be 
For when they lived… they chose the sea.

April Post Meeting 

Freedom Scholarship Winners Feted 

At the April Post meeting, our Freedom Scholarship winners attended with members of their families and each read her essay for the assembled membership. (Both essays were published in last month’s newsletter.) 

The photo below at left shows Christiana Burkhalter of Kamiak High School in Mukilteo reading her essay and at right, Hazel Warner of Meadowdale High School, appears holding her certificate of award. Congratulations once again to both of these young women! 

2022-23 Post Officers Installed 

The business session of the Post meeting, was attended by District Commander Otis Wolf, who acted as the installing officer, swearing in the 2022-23 Post officers. 

As announced in the April newsletter, all of our 2021-22 elected officers were re-elected with the exception of Cal Barnard, who is succeeding our long time Quartermaster, Dennis Peterson. Dennis has chosen to “retire” from that important Post job. Please join us in thanking Dennis for his long service to the post! 

You will find a full list of officers in the election reports on the post web site:

Memorial Day “Buddy Poppy” Distribution 

On Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, veterans of both VFW Post 8870 and American Legion Post 66 handed out “Buddy Poppies” at three store locations; QFC in Edmonds, QFC Mukilteo and Town & Country Market in Mill Creek. 

In spite of the help of some family members and others, we were unable to muster sufficient personnel to staff the fourth and fifth stores we have worked in the past. In spite of this reduction in manpower and reaching fewer stores, we had an excellent weekend of fund raising, bringing in a total of $14,091.16 to bolster our Relief Fund. While this number is considerably short of our record highs of the past, (over $18,000 for Veterans Day 2019) it is still satisfying to be able to get back out there after these past two years of Covid restrictions. 

The public was most welcoming, offering profuse thanks for our service and recognizing the sacrifice of our comrades who never made it home. 

For those of you who were unable to help at the stores: An anonymous donor has offered to match up to $1,500.00 in Relief Fund donations from members in lieu of such participation. If you would like to participate in that offer, which we hope would raise an additional $3,000.00, send your check to the Post PO Box, or go on the donation page of the website. Be sure to note on your check, or online donation, that it is for the Relief Fund matching program. The below is a chart of the weekend results by store. 

Memorial Day Poppy Revenues by Location

Memorial Day Buddy Poppy Distribution

Memorial Day at the Edmonds Cemetery 

The traditional Memorial Day observance at the Edmonds Cemetery drew an estimated 200 attendees. “The Edmonds Cemetery is the final resting place to approximately 600 veterans dating back to the Civil War,” began Cemetery Board Member Jerry Janacek as he welcomed attendees. Janacek’s remarks were followed by a presentation of the colors by members of the Edmonds VFW Post 8870, the Pledge of Allegiance led by a contingent of Girl Scouts, singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by David Little, and a bagpipe rendition of “Grand Old Flag” by piper Jan Begg. 

Memorial Day at the Edmonds Cemetery

In his invocation, Pastor Barry Crane of Edmonds’ North Sound Church reminded attendees that “though we come from many races and religion, we are all Americans, and we realize that freedom is not free.” Crane was followed by the North Sound Singers under the direction of Allan Skoog singing “America the Beautiful.” 

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson spoke briefly, noting that Arlington National Cemetery was created in the wake of the Civil War, a war that saw “the greatest loss of life of any of America’s armed conflicts.” 

Keynote speaker was Monica McNeal, president of American Gold Star Mothers for Washington, Alaska and Oregon, a group of mothers who lost a son or daughter while in service to their country. Monica spoke about the loss of her son, Lance Cpl. Eric Levi Ward, killed in action in Afghanistan on Feb. 21, 2010. 

Memorial Day at the Edmonds Cemetery

Since then, she has dedicated herself to honoring Eric’s service and that of others who continue to serve. Eric now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. “The true cost of war is not the trillions of dollars, but in young lives like Eric’s,” she concluded. “Some gave all; all gave some. God bless America.” 

Memorial Day at the Edmonds Cemetery

McNeal was followed by Mike Denton of VFW Post 8870, with the missing man table ceremony in memory of those who remain missing in action. Next was the ship’s bell ceremony officiated by VFW Post 8870 Commander Carl Kurfess, who read off the names of Snohomish County service members who died in Iran and Afghanistan. Kurfess was assisted by Vietnam veteran John Shelton, who rang the bell as each name was read. 

The ceremonies ended with “God Bless America” by the North Sound Singers, the benediction by Pastor Barry Crane, taps and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. 

Memorial Day at the Edmonds Cemetery
Navy Lt. Lisa Nenno, who served as a trauma nurse was moved by the ceremonies. 

Excerpted from story & photos by Larry Vogel, MyEdmondsNews 

Memorial Day at Edmonds Veterans Plaza 

Local veterans gathered at Edmonds’ Veterans Plaza Monday afternoon to honor their fallen comrades in a short ceremony. 

Ron Clyborne, a Vietnam veteran, spoke about the efforts to create the memorial plaza dedicated to veterans, starting with a vision nine years ago followed by planning, fundraising and construction. Edmonds’ Veterans Plaza officially opened on Memorial Day 2017. 

In her remarks, Edmonds City Council President and U.S. Air Force veteran Vivian Olson pointed to the myriad heroes giving back to Edmonds every day through arts, charities and service. She also spoke about the fragility of democracy, underscored by the current conflict in Ukraine. 

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson offered thanks to those attending for their service. 

At the end of the event, Vietnam veterans Mike Reagan — founder of the Fallen Heroes Project — and Duane Bowman distributed pins to families of those veterans whose loved ones came home from Vietnam, and buttons to those Vietnam vets who served when called to duty. 

Edmonds Kind of 4th

Edmonds Kind of 4th

The annual “Edmonds Kind of 4th” Parade returns this year and with it the VFW/American Legion picnic/barbecue following. Transportation will be available for veterans who are unable to walk the parade route and we are looking for a big turnout for this event. 

We will meet at 6th & Bell in downtown Edmonds at 11:30am to form up for the parade which starts at 12:00 noon. The parade follows its usual route through downtown Edmonds. We will again hand out small flags along the way. 

Following the parade, at 1:00pm we will gather at the Legion Hall for our picnic. The Posts will provide hot dogs and hamburgers, and we ask members attending to bring a side dish/potluck item to share. 

Please notify Commander Carl of what you will provide for the picnic, so we know what to expect. ( Hopefully, many of you will have signed up at the Post meeting on Wednesday June 15. 

Edmonds Kind of 4th

Following are items needed: 

  • Fried Chicken 25 Cheese 69 slices 
  • Sliced & diced onions enough for 60 burgers 
  • Tomatoes, lettuce enough for 60 burgers 
  • Catsup, mustard, relish & mayo 1 large container of each 
  • Pickles 
  • Green Salads w/dressing x4 to serve 10 ea 
  • Potato Salad x4 to serve 10 ea 
  • Ice 4 bags 
  • Chips x2 2 large bags 
  • Cookies 
  • Pies 
  • Regular Coke/Pepsi/ Dr Pepper 2 doz 
  • Napkins 100 
  • Plastic spoons, knives, forks 100 
  • Paper Plates 100

Important Events Coming up!

The busy month of May

Important Events Coming up! The busy month of May

Our calendar is a busy one for the Memorial Day weekend period. We begin, of course, with our semi-annual Buddy Poppy distribution at our local grocery stores, which will begin on the morning of Friday, May 27 and proceed through Saturday, May 28. We could certainly use more of you to participate. It is this simple, the more poppies we hand out, the more money we bring in for our Veterans Relief Fund. It is a very rewarding experience, with lots of folks expressing their gratitude and recognizing our service, so come out and help. If you can’t give us a full day, work half a day. If half a day is not possible, come for a couple of hours. (We will have rain shelter at all locations) 

Important Events Coming up! The busy month of May

On Memorial Day itself, (Monday May 30) we need a few hands to move flags for the ceremonies at the cemetery and the Veterans Plaza. Please meet at the Legion Hall at 8:30 if you can help with that duty. 

We should meet at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery at 10:30 for the 11:00am ceremonies there and will then move on to the Edmonds Veterans Plaza for a short observance at that location, to begin at 1:00pm 

Wear your cover and join us to remember our fallen comrades. 

VFW Conducts Flag Ceremony at Senior Center Ribbon Cutting 

VFW Conducts Flag Ceremony at Senior Center Ribbon Cutting

On Thursday, May 12, members of The VFW Honor Guard were joined by Commander Carl Kurfess, Past Commander Mike Denton and Post member Charlie Gaul to conduct the initial flag ceremony at the ribbon cutting ceremonies of the Edmonds Waterfront Center, on Railroad Ave. You may recall that the flagpole was fundeed by our Post, two other veterans organizations and some individual donations. It is dedicated to honor all veterans. 

The Honor Guard members present included our own Surgeon, Bryan Rowe and post member Gerald Burton, as well as one other from Lynnwood. 

Prior to the posting of the colors, bagpiper Patrick Downing set the mood with his rendition of America the Beautiful. (We are assured that the National Anthem is just not possible on bagpipe!) 

May Post Meeting 

The Post meeting of May 18 will be preceded by a dinner at 5pm, featuring lasagna!

The meeting will start at 6pm as usual. We will have our Freedom scholarship winners present to be recognized and the business meeting to follow will feature the annual installation of post officers for the coming 2022-23 VFW Year. Memorial Day observance plans will also be on the agenda. 

Post Election Report 

Commander: Carl Kurfess 

Sr. Vice Commander: Duane Bowman 

Jr. Vice Commander: Rose Gilliland 

Quartermaster: Cal Barnard 

Chaplain: Dan Doyle 

1st Year Trustee: Kerry Watkins 

2nd year Trustee: Don Stapleton 

3rd year Trustee: Mike Denton 

Appointed by the Commander 

Adjutant: Nathan Wortinger 

Service Officer: Alden Gilliland 

Judge Advocate: Jim Traner 

Surgeon: Bryan Rowe