Retired Navy Cap. Jim Patton spoke about the importance of unity at the 18th annual Oak Harbor Community Veterans Day celebration Friday.
Patton, a longtime Whidbey resident, was the guest speaker at the event which took place at Oak Harbor High School. Patton is a retired submarine and surface warfare qualified officer with 30 years of active service. He holds a doctorate in law and diplomacy and formerly served as executive director of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel at the Pentagon. He is the former president of the Whidbey Island Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and served as the director of the Port of Coupeville.
Along with Patton, the Navy Junior ROTC Color Guard, the Oak Harbor High School’s Harbor Singers, the Oak Harbor High School Band and the Navy Band Northwest Quintet performed.
Patton said one of the main reasons he agreed to be the speaker was so he could thank his wife, Wendy, for her service. She went to Vietnam early in the war as a 24-year-old Army nurse. By the time the war was over, she was fully qualified as an Air Force flight nurse.
“I’ve always told everybody that I married my hero,” Patton said, “and I did.”
Patton explained he is a member of the Military Officers Association and decorates the graves of veterans buried on Whidbey Island every Veterans Day.
“I have a little patch that I work over at Sunnyside,” he said. “In that patch is a grave site of a Civil War veteran. I stop and pause and salute that veteran every time I do that.”
Patton said the Civil War had only been over for 68 years when he was born. When he was growing up, there were still a handful of Civil War veterans he would see in various community parades.
“This nation learned some very important lessons in the American Civil War at a terrible cost,” he said.
Over 600,000 soldiers died in the war – on the battlefield, in primitive hospitals and in prisoner of war camps.
Patton said everyone has deep-seated views and opinions that they defend with passion, but sometimes that passion can turn into anger.
“That anger can explode and when it blows, it can blow a country into pieces,” he said.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Civil War veteran. Patton said the most important word in the pledge is “indivisible.”
“We pledge to keep our country indivisible despite the fact that there’s so much effort from here to there to divide us,” he said.
Patton said when saying the pledge, we should all take a breath and put extra emphasis on the word.