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A big day for veterans
Veterans Day was Nov. 11, but in Coupeville Nov. 8 was the day that will stick in the memories of Whidbey Island veterans.
On that day, more than two years of hard work by volunteers culminated in a ceremony unveiling the new Island County Veterans Memorial. It wasn't quite finished, but the work of art was on display in the Coupeville High School gymnasium, where the ceremony was moved due to inclement weather.
Island Arts for Veterans spearheaded the project, which will be finalized next spring when the monument is erected near the new island County Law & Justice Center.
"The county had a small part to play," said Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton while speaking at the event. "But the money and design, it was all made possible by this veterans group."
Those words brought the crowd to its feet for enthusiastic applause.
More than 400 people packed half the gym for the event, which attracted a wide range of dignitaries, including Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed to Congressman Rick Larsen, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, a host of locally elected officials and retired and active military officers and enlisted men and women.
The event was used both to honor those who made the memorial possible and to recognize the Veterans Day holiday. Congressman Larsen told how he teaches young children about the holiday.
"It's as basic as saying thank you to someone who's a veteran," he said. "So say thank you."
Rev. Darrel Berg said a prayer for "all those who made the All-Time Honor Roll," and "deposited in the Bank of Courage to our account." He urged listeners to spend that banked courage in their civilian, political and moral lives.
Bad weather canceled a planned cannon shot and a flyover by NAS Whidbey jets, but the affair still had plenty of color and sound, thanks to the Shifty Sailors, who sang each service's anthem and other songs, as well as the Point of View Quartet and the Coupeville High School Band.
As usual in Coupeville, it appeared the whole town contributed something for the occasion, from the flags to the cookies.
Master of ceremonies Jack McPherson, a veteran himself, credited the county commissioners for their site donation, saying it "got the project out of the wishing stage."
Bill Ethridge, who was instrumental in organizing Island Art for Veterans, shrugged off his own introduction by McPherson, which cited Ethridge's bomber pilot experience in World War II and his years in a German prisoner of war camp.
"There's a lot of heroes and there's a lot of them here today. And thank God they are here," Ethridge said.
Finally, those heroes are assured they will be remembered in Island County, thanks to Island Arts for Veterans.