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Honoring all who served: Oak Harbor community comes together to honor veterans from today and yesterday

Keynote speaker retired Rear Adm. William McDaniel explains how inspired he is by soldiers returning from war now, especially those with amputated limbs or those suffering from PTSD. - Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times
Keynote speaker retired Rear Adm. William McDaniel explains how inspired he is by soldiers returning from war now, especially those with amputated limbs or those suffering from PTSD.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson / Whidbey News-Times

The community joined in celebration, remembrance and gratitude to honor veterans from every era at the eighth annual Oak Harbor Community Veterans Day Program Saturday.

The program was sponsored by the Oak Harbor Area Council Navy League of the United States.

“This year, we especially want to celebrate the veterans of today,” said Jim Slowik, president of the Oak Harbor Area Council Navy League and former mayor of Oak Harbor.

We are all here and free today because people have given their lives and gone into harm’s way, Slowik added.

“No one deserves more credit for our freedom or preserving our way of life than our veterans,” Slowik said.

After the Daybreak Trio performed the National Anthem and the Oak Harbor High School NJROTC presented the colors, the crowd at Oak Harbor High School watched a video titled “Their Final Resting Place.” The video depicted cemeteries where tens of thousands of American troops were buried overseas in France, Belgium, Italy and other countries.

“It says in pictures what no one can adequately say in words,” Slowik said.

Keynote speaker Rear Adm. William J. McDaniel, U.S. Navy retired, may be known locally for starring as the mole on the TV series “The Mole” but he is known worldwide for the medical work around the world during times of war, peace and natural disasters, as well as his status of wrestling champion.

Soldiers do not throw themselves on grenades for love of country in the moment; they do it for love of each other, McDaniel said. While that has never changed, the current generation of war fighters is different from past generations, McDaniel said.

Technology has made a big difference for this generation of soldiers, as well as multiple deployments and being unsure of who the enemy is, but improvised explosive devices or IEDs are one of the biggest differences.

“Anybody can be affected, not just the trigger puller,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he sees soldiers returning from war with three types of injuries: traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder and limb amputations from IEDs, which would have resulted in death in previous wars.

These people are “incredible inspirations” with “great outlooks,” McDaniel said. “They are truly heroes, one and all.”

Soldiers need to be supported when they come home, McDaniel said, adding that PTSD seems to be a larger problem in this war.

“It is a real condition. It can be treated. If we don’t treat it, it will be a burden to them and to this country and we owe them more than that,” McDaniel said.

“The young people coming out of the military today are amazing. Injured or not, they still want to serve,” McDaniel continued. “They lay their lives on the line for each other and for ourselves.”

McDaniel noted seeing veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and more at the ceremony.

“I love seeing you here and I honor you for your service,” McDaniel said.

As the First United Methodist Church Chancel Choir sang each military branch’s song, veterans in the crowd stood for their song. The Oak Harbor High School Harbor Singers and the All-Island Community Band performed to honor veterans.

Third through fifth grade students from Broad View Elementary created art about veterans, which was on display.

 

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