Veterans Day crowd look for bricks

Heavy autumn rains didn’t dampen the spirits of local veterans who wanted an up-close look at the new memorial next to the Island County Courthouse Annex building in Coupeville.

They saw the memorial during Coupeville’s third annual Veterans Day ceremony Monday afternoon.

More than 100 veterans ventured to the memorial but, because of the rain, they eventually found themselves crammed into the commissioners’ hearing room for the half-hour-long presentation.

“I think it speaks highly of the community that so many turned out today,” said Commissioner Mike Shelton.

Although held indoors, attendees saw part of the memorial as the flags representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine along with the POW/MIAs were on display in the hearing room. Those flags provide a backdrop for the memorial.

US Rep. Rick Larsen was the keynote speaker and highlighted a recent trip he made to Iraq where he had the chance to meet with the troops.

“Morale is high and they know they have the support of the American people,” Larsen said.

He also brought up the biblical story of Jonah and the whale and equated it to people who choose to serve their country.

“The story isn’t about Jonah and the whale, it’s about answering a call when called,” Larsen said. “We are here to remember you who answered that call.”

After the ceremony, folks headed out into the rain to look at the memorial’s personal touch. Many people purchased inscribed bricks that commemorated loved ones who served in the military. These bricks pave the plaza.

Although the five bronze panels highlighting aspects of military life dominated the memorial, people were busy finding their brick.

“I think it’s an outstanding tribute for Island County veterans,” said Helen Chatfield-Weeks who was looking for her husband’s name on a brick.

Oak Harbor resident Fred Terrell said the memorial is “magnificent” as a tribute to those who never came home.

The memorial, “Freedom Borne,” took a local veterans group more than three years to raise more than $80,000.

“It’s been going for some time and we’re tired — but happy,” said Bill Ethridge, chairman of Island Art for Veterans.

Seattle-based artist John Sisko said he has worked closely with Island Art for Veterans for the past several years.

“This was definitely the most involved project,” he has done, Sisko said after the event.

He said the memorial evolved from a simple plaque on the side of the building into the bronze-paneled piece that dominates the entrance to a new county building.

Island County also provided some assistance with the memorial by constructing the wall for the panels and the seats in front of it. The construction was part of the county’s $1.9 million annex remodel that was recently completed.

Now that Freedom Borne is complete, Ethridge said that Island Art for Veterans should be disbanded by the end of the year.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.

com or 675-6611.

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