Veterans on Whidbey Island and all over the world can tune in to a virtual program this year hosted by the Oak Harbor Area Council of the Navy League of the United States.
The local Navy League will broadcast its virtual Veterans Day program on social media and local Comcast Channel 10 at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11. Local partners will also broadcast it on their social media pages, including the Whidbey News-Times’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WhidbeyNews.
The program was pre-recorded and features interviews with a local World War II veteran retired Cmdr. Clayton Engebretsen of Freeland and retired Sgt. Robert Olivarez, Jr (USMC), an Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veteran, plus Regional Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Speakers include Commander, Navy Region Northwest, Rear Adm. Stephen Barnett, Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns and a speaker from Growing Veterans, a mental health support organization with an outpost at Greenbank Farm.
An active duty vocalist from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will sing the national anthem, and the color guard from Oak Harbor High School’s Navy JRTOC and the Sons of the American Revolution will be part of the program.
Greg Smith, president of the Oak Harbor Area Council of the Navy League of the United States, said that the group wanted to find a way to honor veterans who took COVID-19 precautions into account. The group organized a similar program for Memorial Day this year that was held virtually.
Kelly Davidson led the effort for the Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs this year.
According to Davidson, the group’s Memorial Day video was viewed 8,000 times by viewers as far away as New York, Canada, South Carolina, Georgia, the Netherlands and France watched in the first two days after the video was posted.
“When you do something like this, of course, you have all the social media networks all across the nation and globe — all those folks who are now able to see that,” Smith said.
Despite the coronavirus’s toll on events throughout 2020, Smith said he thought it was important to find a way to honor veterans this Veterans Day.
“Like pretty much any military service, we vie for the opportunity to not let anything get in the way of our mission. We just adapt to the situation and we overcome the obstacles presented to us, and we make it happen,” Smith said.
Veterans Day is observed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month every year to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918 and honors everyone who has served in the nation’s armed forces.
“The fact is that we cannot let our veterans go unrecognized and we just can’t allow that to happen,” said Smith.
“We feel it is important to honor the sacrifices they’ve made over the centuries and continue to make.”