While keeping physical distance and wearing masks, a crowd of about 125 at Pioneer Memorial Park Wednesday heard a message to draw near — metaphorically — to those who have served and continue to serve their nation.
“Our veterans stand beside us; now, we must stand beside them.”
The words from Paul Renick, Commander of the American Legion Post 62, highlighted a unique Veterans Day ceremony held at the historic park near downtown Sequim. With many community celebrations canceled or moved online because of statewide COVID-19 health restrictions, the event drew veterans and non-veterans alike as local advocates lauded veterans’ efforts.
Renick, who led the ceremony, recalled a definition of a veteran that seemed apropos: “It’s someone who has give the U.S. government a blank check, made payable to the American people, up to and including my life,” he said. “That is honor. That is a veteran.”
He read a message from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell to veterans that read, in part, “We owe our freedom to (veterans’) sacrifice and those of their families.”
Renick added that said veterans should have more access to mental health services.
Priscilla Hudson, historian for the Sequim Prairie Garden Club whose members maintain Pioneer Memorial Park, asked the crowd to remember veterans who supported those on the front lines of combat.
“It took everyone to … achieve the goal,” she said.
That sentiment was echoed by veteran Tom Ferrell, the City of Sequim’s deputy mayor, who reflected on his time of service in the U.S. Air Force. He said all veterans, not just those most visible or written about, should be honored.
“(As a pilot) I get to ride the tip of the spear and be the hero … but we’re all the tip of the spear,” he said.
Ferrell said three key words came to his mind when thinking about what it means to be a veteran: focus, dutiful and resolve.
“Think of the resolve we’ve had in this military to get the job done,” Ferrell said.
Nancy Zimmerman, chaplain of the American Legion’s Jack Grennan Post 62, offered the invocation and closing prayer, while bagpiper Rick McKenzie provided music and Amanda Bacon led the National Anthem.
Ivan Cortani, who won a drawing at a veterans celebration event at the George Washington Inn on Oct. 24, handed out thank-you notes written by students in grades 1-3, and Daughters of the American Revolution handed out red, white and blue flowers to veterans.
Members of the Marine Corp League’s Mt. Olympus Detachment offered a rifle volley and rendition of “Taps,” echoed by American Legion riders, and closing comments came from Jeff Reyes, Clallam County Veterans Resource Center Coordinator.
The event was a joint effort of three organizations: Jack Grennan Post 62 American Legion, Michael Trebert Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, and Pioneer Memorial Park.
Those unable to attend the event can view a recording on the Clallam County Veterans Center Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nwvrc.