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Whidbey Island commemorates Veterans Day

Jayne Relaford lost her husband, Dennis Relaford, a retired chief out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, to liver cancer three weeks ago Friday, yet she managed to celebrate this Veterans Day with him at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.

"I told him I was going to bring him," she said, as she tenderly held a box containing Dennis' cremated remains and VA photo-identification card.

Dennis served from 1967 to 1989. During his 22-year career, he spent a lot of time at sea, she said. Although Jayne had never attended past Veterans Day celebrations at the Elks lodge, she "felt honored" to attend this years event with her husband's remains.

This year's community-wide event, sponsored by the Oak Harbor Navy League focused on today's veterans. Keynote speaker Capt. Nathan Smith of the U.S. Marine Corps shared stories of his two terms in Iraq.

He defended today's generation for "winning a war that no one wants."

"It's a generation concerned with its own affairs, but that's willing to rise to the challenges presented," he said. "Maybe it's the same as every other generations before."

Smith balanced the serious remarks with comic one-liners and little glimpses into the daily grind of his platoon that sent the 300 attendees into fits of laughter.

Three active-duty sailors sat among veterans of the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Army and Marines at the ceremony.

Meanwhile in Coupeville, a somber audience formed at the veteran's memorial at noon to commemorate veterans past and present. The brief ceremony included the unfurling of flags representing each branch of the military along with the American flag and the POW/MIA flag.

"We always believe in supporting the commemorating of veterans," said Gerald Brigham, who was attending with his wife, Emmi.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard spoke during the ceremony, noting the confusion people may have distinguishing Veterans Day from Memorial Day.

"I read in a magazine recently that the average person probably could not tell you the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day," Conard said during the ceremony. "Memorial Day has been set aside to honor Americans who died in wartime, while Veterans Day is intended to honor all who have served, but especially those who are still with us today."

She also highlighted how Veterans Day evolved from Armistice Day and shared some veteran's statistics.

Central Whidbey Lions Club president David Barville lead people in singing the national anthem at the start of the ceremony and wrapped things up at the end by singing "God Bless America."

The flags remained flying at the Vetera's Memorial until 5 p.m.

Earlier Wednesday, about 50 people attended the inaugural flag raising ceremony at Gateway Park at the corner of Highway 20 and Ault Field Road.

The Shifty Sailors provided the music. The speakers included Capt. Gerral David, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island; Beth Munns, on behalf of the city of Oak Harbor; and Linda Haddon, who spearheaded the flag-pole and fundraising project. They all spoke about the significance of the relationship between the city and Navy communities.

"We support each other in times of need and in times of celebration," Munns said.

Capt. David joked that Linda Haddon approached him more than a year ago about adding a flagpole to the Gateway Park display.

"Linda Haddon said (the Gateway Park) was great, but it wasn't patriotic enough," he said of how the park's new red, white and blue backdrop came to be. "What better day than Veterans Day to hoist the first flag."

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