Emotional, music-filled Veterans Day ceremony at air station
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Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News
Korean War vets John "Jack" McCann and Mary Reid attend Sunday's ceremony honoring veterans at the Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Hundreds of veterans and their families took part in an emotional, music-filled Veterans Day ceremony Sunday at Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.

The North Olympic Peninsula is home to more than 10,000 veterans. Nearly 1 in three Clallam County residents are either a veteran or related to one, said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Keith McTigue, commanding officer of the air station.

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life,” McTigue said, quoting an anonymous author.

Guest speaker at the ceremony was Betsy Reed Schultz of Port Angeles, who spoke about the Captain Joseph House, a respite for families of fallen veterans that recently received nonprofit status.

Among those in attendance were Mary E. Reid, 85, who was an Army nurse during the Korean War.

In December 1950, Reid was on her way with her hospital group to set up a “station hospital” in an area that would become North Korea — just as the Chinese invaded Korea.

At the time, the group was not prepared to be in a war zone, Reid said.

“We wouldn't have gone there if we knew there was going to be a war,” she said.

Reid's unit was redeployed to Pusan, South Korea, where her unit became an evacuation hospital.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict and Undersheriff Ron Peregrin, both Navy veterans, represented the many veterans who are members of the area law enforcement community.

Military service is a good precursor for law enforcement, Peregrin said.

“Former members of the military are already disciplined and can withstand the rigors of the police academy,” he said.

Peregrin noted there are federal grants to help fund the training of post-9/11 veterans, assisting them in finding jobs.

McTigue noted that four North Olympic Peninsula residents have distinguished themselves by earning the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration.

They were Francis Bishop, a Union Army soldier during the Civil War, who moved to Port Angeles after the war; Thaddeus S. Smith of Jefferson County's Leland Valley, who retired to Port Townsend after serving as an Army corporal at the Battle of Gettysburg; Richard B. Anderson of Agnew, who died on a Pacific atoll during World War II after grabbing a live grenade and saving three men; and Marvin G. Shields of Port Townsend, the first member of the Navy to earn the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War — and the first and only Seabee ever so honored.

Members of Anderson's family allowed his Medal of Honor and other awards to be displayed at Sunday's ceremony.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jason L. Howton, a Marine Corps recruiter stationed in Port Angeles, stood honor guard over Anderson's Medal of Honor before and during the ceremony.

“It is an honor to be asked. There is no way I was going to say 'No,'” Howton said.

North Peninsula residents continue to bring honor to the area, as Port Angeles native Cliff Wooldridge, a Marine Corps sergeant, was recently awarded the Navy Cross and named the USO Marine of the Year for bravery in Afghanistan, McTigue said.

Before and after the speeches, the Port Angeles High School Wind Ensemble played the “Armed Forces Medley”; the Sequim High School Select Choir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner”; the Port Angeles High School Band played “Echo Taps”; and a plethora of choral groups — the Olympic Peninsula Men's Chorus, the Peninsula Men's Gospel Singers and the Grand Olympics Chorus of Sweet Adelines Internations — also performed.

Other Veterans Day events included an Avenue of Flags in Sequim, where two blocks of Fir and Spruce Streets were planted with 275 flags for Veterans Day weekend.

The Avenue of Flags was a Sequim Sunrise Rotary project.

In Port Townsend, a Veterans Day ceremony was also held at the American Legion Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 11. 2012 6:21PM
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