Wahkiakum High School observed Veterans Day last Friday by listening to speakers, enjoying music by the band, reading poems and essays, and thanking veterans for their sacrifices.
Two veterans addressed the crowd, which included middle and high school students, staff and faculty, and veterans and their families.
Lt. Commander Brent Freeman, a Cathlamet resident about to be deployed to the western Pacific, told the crowd that veterans "are special people who we hold dear to our hearts."
"I ask you students to make a donation that won't cost you anything," he said. "Say thank you. Find a relative who's a veteran and give them a hug and say, 'Thank you.'"
Featured guest speaker was Bruce Dammeier, a US Naval Academy graduate, veteran and state representative from Puyallup who has just been elected state senator.
Dammeier asked students to consider how they would answer a call to service, if they were willing to sacrifice themselves for something bigger, and how they would respond if they "had to face the bad guys of the world."
Dammeier gave capsules of some local veterans' stories--how they served in the tropical Pacific islands and were prepared to invade Japan in World War II; the tours of duty of two submariners, one of whom was a weapons officer in charge of missiles with nuclear warheads; those who had fought in Vietnam; men and women who had served in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, and one soldier soon to deployed again to Afghanistan.
"Real service comes at a price," he said. The soldiers and sailors are separated from their families and supportive communities. Some suffer physical injury, and many deal with post traumatic stress disorder.
"The cost goes beyond the service members," he said; "it affects their families.
"Veterans Day is about remembering all the citizens of our country who have served our country so we can live in this place in this way," he said. "Veterans Day is there to prepare you for your generations' service to defend our country.
"We're going to need your generation to step up to answer the call to service, people willing to sacrifice themselves for something bigger than I am."