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'Line of support' to follow Pelham funeral

Forest Grove, Hillsboro veterans' advocates plan roadside tribute to fallen Beaverton soldier


{img:33189}Amber Gilley and Zack Gallinger-Long are asking hundreds of people to line Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway Monday afternoon to pay tribute to a fallen Beaverton soldier and to support his grieving family.

Gilley, of Forest Grove, and Gallinger-Long, of Hillsboro, are spreading the word via social media — and by phone and on foot — that anyone, even people who didn’t know Army Spc. John A. Pelham, can honor his life and sacrifice by standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the roadside Feb. 24 starting at noon.

That’s when a memorial service for Pelham, who was killed in action in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 12, is likely to adjourn at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Southwest 99th Avenue in Beaverton.

Oregon's Department of Transportation said the funeral procession would travel on Highway 217 to Interstate 5 south and then north on Interstate 205 to the Johnson Creek Boulevard exit.

When Pelham’s family emerges from the memorial service, Gallinger-Long — whose 19-year-old brother Ryley, a Navy hospitalman, died while on active duty in Afghanistan in 2011 — hopes to see a sea of American flags and people showing how much they care.

“When Ryley came home and we had all those people lining the streets between Hillsboro and Forest Grove, it was just so powerful,” said Gallinger-Long, chairman of the Oregon Military Families Task Force, a group whose members are appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber. “The show of support was just jaw-dropping.”

"The Pelhams lost a family member for life, and we have this one opportunity to show them our appreciation."

Since his brother’s death two-and-a-half years ago, Gallinger-Long, 28, has worked tirelessly with Gilley to drum up support for veterans and their families. The pair spearheaded the transformation of a Cornelius park to Veterans Memorial Park, which was officially dedicated in 2012.

{img:33190}Pelham’s name will be the 155th name to be engraved on a granite wall in the park honoring soldiers from Washington County either missing in action or killed in action in conflicts dating from World War II forward.

Pelham, 22, a 2010 Sunset High School graduate, and Sgt. First Class Roberto Skelt, 41, of York, Fla., both soldiers engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, were struck and killed by enemy small arms gunfire. It was Pelham's second tour of duty with the 2nd Batallion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

His father, Wendell Pelham of Cedar Hills, flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Friday, Feb. 21, to receive his son’s body from a military transport plane.

It was Gilley who first alerted Gallinger-Long that another soldier from Washington County had been lost in action in the Middle East.

“Amber sent me an email from the airport,” Gallinger-Long said Thursday. “She was on her way out of town, but she said ‘We’re going to have to get on this — he’s from Washington County.’”

The sad news sent Gallinger-Long to the phone within hours, drumming up support from Beaverton-area businesses whose owners and managers have pledged to change their marquees to read “Thank you for your service, Spc. Pelham” and to provide parking space for people who want to line the procession route on Monday. Gallinger-Long is also working with Beaverton Police to ensure a safe and orderly event.

“We are going to begin the flag line at the intersection of Southwest 99th and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway,” said Gallinger-Long. “We want to see if we can stretch it all the way down Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway until it reaches Highway 217.”

For more information about the effort, see the Facebook page “Support the Pelham Family” at www.facebook.com/events/530516090394962/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming.

A graveside service at Willamette National Cemetery in southeast Portland will follow the Monday morning funeral in Beaverton. Pelham will be buried with full military honors.




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