Whidbey Island honors its veterans

Active duty marines carry fallen hero banners at Oak Harbor’s Veterans Day parade Saturday.   - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Active duty marines carry fallen hero banners at Oak Harbor’s Veterans Day parade Saturday.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Natasha Masterson and her 8-year-old son J.J. were among the proud supporters at the Oak Harbor Veterans Day parade Saturday cheering on both veterans and those in active duty.

Her husband, Petty Officer Brian Masterson, was carrying one of the fallen hero banners. Their son was excited to see his father in the parade.

“J.J. is super proud of his daddy,” Masterson said. “He’s the most patriotic kid you’ll ever meet.”

Masterson explained that it was likely that a military career in oceanic wildlife may be the future career of her son.

J.J. explained, “I want to be an adventurer and save the animals and be just like daddy.”

Events like this throughout Whidbey Island Saturday and Monday highlighted the community’s support for its veterans.

Penny and Scott Baldwin attended the parade in Oak Harbor with their dog, Toby, in tow.

“We just wanted to see the vets and show our support,” Scott Baldwin said.

The parade featured approximately 50 fallen hero banners with names and faces of local fallen servicemen and women. The Grand Marshal of this year’s parade was Olga Belevich Evans, who served as an Army Air Corps Flight Nurse during World War II.

Also on Saturday, members of the Whidbey Island Chapter of the Military Officers of America Association, Oak Harbor High School NJROTC students and boy scouts and scouters from Troop 4059 of Oak Harbor and Troop 57 of South Whidbey placed more than 1,300 American Flags on veterans’ graves in the various cemeteries throughout the island.

On Monday, Veterans Day, a musical tribute to the veterans was held before a full house at Oak Harbor High School with keynote speaker Capt. Mike Nortier, commanding officer of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“It’s the sacrifice of those who came before us that makes us want to do a little more each day,” Nortier said. “On this 11th hour of this 11th day of this 11th month we take a few moments for those who have served our great country.”

Nortier said that the sight of all the military ball caps and squadron jackets in the audience was evidence of the pride of the community for its veterans.

“We should also remember that we are a nation still at war,” Nortier said. “Today, NAS Whidbey Island sailors are where it matters, and they are ready.”

He encouraged everyone to take the time to “reach out to friends and family and thank them for their service.”

In Coupeville, dozens of residents took some time Monday to honor the men and women who have served.

The town of Coupeville organized a Veteran’s Day recognition ceremony late Monday morning for veterans of every branch of the armed forces. Taking place at the Veteran’s Memorial located at the Island County campus, veterans from each branch unfurled a flag while members of the Shifty Sailors sang each branch’s song.

“Veteran’s Day was originally established in recognition of the end of ‘The Great War,’ World War I,” Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said during the ceremony. “Fighting ceased in that war at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month. Regrettably, additional wars and conflicts occurred after World War I.”

Dick Johnson, representing Bill Ethridge, unfurled the POW/MIA flag. Johnson is a veteran of the U.S. Army and is a representative of the Disabled American Veterans, who are also the custodians of the memorial. Ethridge wasn’t able to attend the Monday morning ceremony.

Ethridge served in the United States Army Air Corps. He was a bombardier in a B-17 that was shot down in Germany during World War II. Ethridge, along with other crew members, spent the remainder of the war in POW camps. He wrote a book about is experiences and he also advocated for the county veteran’s memorial.


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