Veterans, first responders to be honored next week
— Created November 3, 2021 by Melanie Hammons
By Melanie Hammons
There are days, said President Roosevelt, which “will live in infamy.” Such was Dec. 7, 1941; Sept. 11, 2001 could be included, too.
But some days will always live on in honor. Holidays such as Veterans Day, and Patriot Day, on Sept. 11, turn horrific loss inside out by remembering the best, that is, the heroes, from those days and many others as well.
This Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, Oak Harbor’s Navy League seeks to do just that, said Navy League Chaplain, Capt. David Lura. The Veterans Day event will jointly honor both our country’s veterans and our first responders, so many of whom bravely confronted the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve held a joint ceremony to honor both our veterans and our first responders,” said Lura, also the program lead for the observance. He describes it as an event that “almost didn’t happen this year.”
“Because of the pandemic, last year’s Veterans Day event was pre-recorded and streamed on a variety of platforms,” he said. “In the past, it’s always been held indoors at Oak Harbor High School. Since this year also marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we decided to observe both not only jointly, but as a live ceremony in the open air. The outdoor setting at Oak Harbor High School’s Wildcat Memorial Stadium allows us to do it safely, yet in a facility that still provides cover from the weather,” Lura said.
The Veterans Day event features contributions from participants of all ages. An important part of Navy League’s outreach centers on supporting youth and youth programs, said Lura, and to that end, the color guard detail and bell ringer come from OHHS NJROTC ranks. “Plus, the Sea Cadets will be serving as ushers and greeters; they’ll also supply a trio of instrumentalists to play the national anthem,” he said.
A most solemn moment in a Veterans Day ceremony is the bell ringing eleven times at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month. Lura calls it “a holy moment for many.”
“It’s a time to remember and honor those living and dead of each war and conflict in which veterans have served since the signing of the armistice that ended World War II on that date (1918) and time,” he said.
Equally solemn this year promises to be the brief bell ringing by local fire department personnel in observance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Lura said. “We’ll likewise be commemorating how first responders (who included many military personnel), rushed to those crash sites to do what needed to be done.”
The fact that so many first responders do have military backgrounds is significant, according to Lura. It underscores his belief that “veterans of all sorts are also ‘first responders.”
“We see this often when a plane crashes in a neighborhood, or a multi-car crash happens on a freeway. Common citizens get pressed into service and are often thankful for the first aid or CPR classes that they learned in scouts or at their respective places of employment,” he said.
If it’s true that “veterans of all sorts are also first responders,” then the guest speaker selection could not be more appropriate and meaningful. As a long-serving Navy Chaplain himself, Capt. Douglas J. Waite, Chaplain Corps, USN (Retired), has experienced both the military world and simultaneously walked the path of a first responder in the worst of possible circumstances.
Waite, serving as a chaplain since 1983, has seen tours aboard aircraft carriers and hospitals, and in conflicts such as Operation Desert Storm. His career spans years ministering to Marines, Coast Guard, and Navy personnel. It was while serving at the Washington, D.C. Coast Guard headquarters that the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. Waite found himself ministering not only to those suffering in the wake of the attack on the Pentagon but also at the World Trade Center site in New York.
In a series about 9/11 that PBS television aired in 2018, one segment featured Captain Waite’s service. The series is titled “We’ll Meet Again;” Waite’s particular episode is captioned “Heroes of 9/11.”
This year, 2021, it so happens Thanksgiving Day falls exactly two weeks after Veterans Day. That holiday marks another opportunity to give and show thanks to all these heroes. And there are even more opportunities out there, too, from supporting Veterans Services Organizations (VSOs) to programs such as Wounded Warriors and Tunnels to Towers (featured in the program handout.)
Locally, even right here on Whidbey Island, there are chances for anyone to help out, says Clyde Shavers, a Whidbey Veterans Resource Center (WVRC) Board Member. Shavers, a Naval Academy graduate, explains how he came to be involved with WVRC.
“Whidbey Island has one of the most densely concentrated population groups of veterans in the state. As a veteran myself, I desired to be a part of this great network. There are so many needs,” he said.
The work WVRC carries out includes helping sponsor a free van-link transportation service to off-island Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics. It also hosts support groups and provides VA benefits assistance and referrals. Sometimes, the assistance extends to veterans’ family members by connecting them to other supporting organizations.
“So far this year, the WVRC has served over 200 veterans, hosted over 150 support groups, and received nearly 400 visits at the South Whidbey Community Center,” Shavers said.
As a nonprofit 501(c)3 advocacy group, WVRC depends upon donations and fundraising for support. One such fundraiser, “Honor Those Who Served,” is set for Sunday, Nov. 14 at Langley’s Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. The event features “wine tasting, good eats, a silent auction and the fusion guitar stylings of Andre Feriante.”
“We’re receiving a great deal of ongoing support from the community as far as the silent auction goes,” said Shavers. He said the items donated so far include artwork, rounds of golf and more.
The WVRC has called South Whidbey home since 2009. For more information about the WVRC and the “Honor Those Who Served” event, including ticket purchases, call 360-331-8081 or see the website www.whidbeyvrc.org.
The Oak Harbor Area Council of the Navy League is a group of civilians who meet monthly in support of the women and men of the sea services. For more information about Navy League, please refer to its website oakharbornavyleague.org or call 360-720-8398.