PORT ANGELES — On the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, people crowded into a hangar at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
They heard patriotic songs performed by various community groups, including the Grand Olympics Chorus, the Sequim High School Select Choir and the Olympic Peninsula Men’s Chorus before the event concluded with bagpiper and retired Coast Guardsman Rick McKenzie performing Amazing Grace.
The keynote speaker was retired Navy Rear Adm. James Kelly of Port Ludlow who called attention to several World War II veterans in the crowd. He presented a blanket to Roy Ellefson, who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and shook the hands of each World War II veteran who attended.
The Veterans Day ceremony was one of several held across the North Olympic Peninsula on Sunday, including in Gardiner, Port Townsend, Sequim and Forks.
Kelly, a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and naval flight officer, told the veterans who attended that they are respected.
During his 30-minute address Kelly spoke of politics, a divide in the country and turmoil across the world, but said those who serve in the military do so out of a love for their country regardless of which party happens to be in power.
“It’s called taking care of the country and taking care of the Constitution,” he said. “That’s the most important thing we do and we have done.”
He told veterans not to worry about the politics, but to be concerned with the facts. He said it is important for veterans locally to know about the U.S. Navy’s electronic warfare training and the mission at Indian Island.
“It’s great for our warriors and we need it because our world is a dangerous place,” he said. “A lot of people say not in my backyard. We need to be the people who are saying and have all the right reasons for why in my backyard.”
Kelly urged the veterans who attended to make it their top priority to look out for themselves, unlike what they probably did while they served in the armed forces. He said that while he served the mantra was to put shipmates before oneself.
“If my shipmates are looking out for their shipmates then people are watching over me and I don’t have to look out for myself,” he said. “Now I’m veteran, a retired guy, and I have to shift the role.”
He told the veterans to take care of themselves and reach out for help if they need it. Kelly said it’s important to hang around and be able to help raise the next generation.
“We know for sure that some of us carry baggage for a long time and it manifests itself in difficult ways at times,” he said. “If you are waking up in the middle of the night thinking about bad things that have happened to you because of your time in the service, do something about it.
“I can guarantee you that the Veterans Administration cares deeply and its their mission to take care of their shipmates.”
At the conclusion of his address, he asked that all who do or have served in any of the six branches of the military — including Merchant Marines — to stand to be recognized for their service.
“Thank you all for your service,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].