OH Navy League marks Veterans Day with traditional program

— Created November 9, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Members of the Oak Harbor Area Council of Navy League invite the Whidbey Island community to join them in commemorating Veterans Day Friday at 11 a.m. at Oak Harbor High School.

This will be the 18th annual Veterans Day program by the organization and its members are pleased to bring the program back to its more traditional format, after the pandemic forced the group to move to a virtual celebration in 2020 and an outdoor observance last year.

The return to the indoor program means the community has an opportunity to come together to honor veterans – living and deceased – for their service to our country. It’s a point of pride for a community with a higher-than-average number of veterans.

“I think the community views it as important because such a high proportion of north Whidbey residents are veterans and families of veterans,” said George Saul, one of the event organizers. “According to Census Reporter 2020, (censusreporter.org/profiles/06000US5302992256-north-whidbey-island-ccd-island-county-wa/), fully 24 percent of the north Whidbey population is veterans (active and prior service).  Whidbey in total is at 18 percent of the population and 9 percent of the population of Washington state is veterans. It is special to me personally because it is a way to revisit the service of my father and his father and my wife’s father, and to pay tribute to veterans serving today.”

According to Saul, music will play an important role in the program.

“The body of the program is a musical tribute,” he described. “In addition to the traditional Armed Forces Salute where the attendees sing along with their service song, two highlights this year are Oscar Peterson’s ‘The Hymn to Freedom’ and ‘He Ain’t Heavy.’ The OHHS choir and band both perform, as does the brass quintet from the Regional Navy Band Northwest.

“In addition to the musical groups from the high school, the Navy JROTC program is very well known for its achievement in the region,” Saul continued. “The Color Guard is featured in the Veterans Day program, and they strike the ceremonial bell 11 times to mark the occasion. The striking of the bell at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – denoting the armistice ending World War I – has traditionally signaled a moment of silence.”

This year’s featured speaker for the program is Capt. Jim Patton, U.S. Navy (Retired), who commanded a submarine during the Cold War.

“Hearing from a submariner is a little unusual on Whidbey since so many of our sailors are tied to aviation – either electronic attack with the Growlers or patrol with the Poseidons,” said Saul. “Jim is a well-known speaker on the Island, most recently regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He holds a Ph.D. in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School and served on Henry Kissinger’s policy planning staff from 1974 to 1977, so he knows a little something about international relations and our relationship with Russia, particularly.”

While Memorial Day traditionally is meant to honor those veterans, first responders and police officers who have given their lives in service, Veterans Day provides an opportunity to honor not only those who sacrificed their lives but those still among us who have either served previously or who are currently serving.

Saul said the Veterans Day program provides a good opportunity to take time to reflect on all of that.

“It is hard to break out of daily patterns and habits and carve out time to go somewhere and be mindful of a category of people who have chosen to do the nation’s work,” he said. “Veterans subordinate(d) their health and welfare for the good of the nation as a whole. If you haven’t had a chance recently to thank a veteran AND their family, November 11th is a great opportunity to do that. It will be an uplifting, joyous event.  Absolutely no politics at all.  Just honoring those who serve(d) all of us. You will leave feeling better about yourself and your community.”

Learn more at oakharbornavyleague.org. The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce is also a sponsor of this program.