COEUR d’ALENE — On the grounds where the original Freedom Tree once stood, another McMurray pledged his service to his country.
Standing straight and tall, black shoes already impeccably shining, 19-year-old Connor McMurray held his hand rigid in the air as his aunt, Col. Lisa McLeod, swore him into the Washington Air National Guard while loved ones witnessed this moment in the Veterans Memorial Plaza in McEuen Park in Coeur d'Alene.
"I feel so lucky that this is here in Coeur d’Alene," Connor said Monday. "I feel like it was almost meant to be."
Connor graduated from Coeur d'Alene High School in 2018. He plans to go into aerospace medical services.
"After I get a degree from college, I may become a pilot," he said. "If I do really enjoy the medical field, I will continue that."
He said he was inspired to enter the service by his grandfather, Fred McMurray, an Air Force fighter pilot from Coeur d'Alene who was held prisoner during the Vietnam War. Fred made it home and was celebrated with a parade and the 1972 dedication of the Freedom Tree in McEuen, which was removed in 2013 during the McEuen Park project.
"The thought of serving your country and helping everyone, you know, he’s always been a role model," Connor said of his grandfather.
His mom, Ailis McMurray, said Connor's ceremony held in the plaza is the perfect way to "finish it all out."
"I think this is probably the most appropriate place for something like this," she said. "And how neat that it’s his aunt that’s going to swear him in in front of all the family."
The bell that was on the Cougar steam ship is a central feature of the plaza. Connor's great-great-grandfather, "Pappy," worked on that ship, so another piece of his family history was present for the ceremony.
"I’m blessed with this family," Fred said. "Connor is such a neat young man. I told him last night, 'I'm not going to push you one way or another, but whatever you decide, I totally support.' I’m really happy for him and proud of him."
Connor's aunt, commander of the 141st Maintenance Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, agreed.
"I’m really honored to be able to swear him into the Air National Guard and continue service that my grandpa started with our family back during World War II," she said.