FORKS IS A small, rural town, but even still, it’s not every day there are shots fired on the main street.
Several American flags fluttered in the breeze under a gray sky as a somber crowd of about 60 people gathered at the Forks Transit Center to recognize the people behind Veterans Day.
They gathered around a grassy area and plaque noting that this Forks section of U.S. Highway 101 is a Blue Star Memorial Highway, “a tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America.”
Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon and Tom Hughes of the American Legion Forks 106 spoke impassioned words of appreciation for American veterans.
Monohon closed with an anonymous poem, “In Your Honor,” and said, “May this be a peaceful day of remembrance.”
A soulful taps carried out from Chelsea Biciunas’ trumpet over the attentive listeners.
Five men and women then responded to sharp commands, shouldered their rifles and fired three rounds each; thus ended the simple and emotional ceremony.
People walked back to their cars or moseyed down the street a few blocks to have a free spaghetti lunch at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall. The meal was prepared by the VFW Auxiliary for Post 106 of Forks.
Not far away, another group was showing its appreciation for America’s veterans. The ladies of Sarge’s Attic were hosting the grand opening of their second-hand furniture and collectibles store, perfectly timed for Veterans Day.
“This is our powerhouse of women who have vets in our families, and we like to give back,” explained Cheri Tinker. She lists Sue Trettevick, Betsy Cadwell, Jennifer Pelikan, Nora Alwarth and Anastasia Rigby as the core of this powerhouse.
Tinker herself explained that she has proven ancestry that shows a member of her family has been in every American conflict beginning with the Revolution. “I’m damn proud of that,” she added.
Sarge’s Attic operates out of a large garage on Sol Duc Way in Forks. It is a store that sells donated items in good shape.
All of the proceeds go to help funding of programs run by Sarge’s Place, an emergency shelter for homeless veterans. Both Sarge’s Attic and Sarge’s Place are owned by the North Olympic Regional Veteran’s Housing Network, which also owns Camp Sol Duc and the Outpost, two more supportive housing buildings for veterans.
Looking around the store, there are quality items arranged like a department store. The wood dining tables have place settings, shelves have bundles of books and chairs and a couch are invitingly placed.
Tinker says all of the items come from donations.
“We have had some really beautiful things come through.”
She notes the generosity of private donors from all over the West End and veterans organizations of the North Olympic Peninsula.
Some useful household items are set aside for veterans who move from temporary housing into permanent housing. Most of the veterans coming through Sarge’s Place don’t have much more than fits into a backpack, Tinker explains, so she appreciates having the resources to set them up with items such as dishes, towels and even furniture for their homes.
Tears well up in Tinker’s eyes as she expresses the depth of her feelings attached to giving back to the men and women of the armed forces.
Sam Powell, an Iraq combat vet, and Mike Polanec, an Army veteran, both live in veterans’ housing nearby Sarge’s Attic. They are the brawn of Sarge’s Attic.
Polanec says, “I appreciate everything, and now I like to earn my keep.”
He had been living on the streets in Port Angeles, and after going through the temporary housing at Sarge’s Place, he is looking forward to permanent housing in Port Angeles.
Powell also appreciates the opportunity to help out wherever he can.
“It’s more or less like family,” he says.
He has also reached beyond Sarge’s Place to become an active member of the Forks Elks Lodge and regularly cooks dinner for the bingo nights there.
Pelikan of Sarge’s Attic and Sarge’s Place explained that the veterans express a strong desire to work. She believes that as Sarge’s Attic grows into its own, the opportunities to ease once-homeless veterans into work will grow with it.
“They need to have a purpose in a way that they are able,” she said.
She and Tinker explain many veterans are simply not ready for a 40-hour workweek, and the store can accommodate a schedule they feel comfortable with.
Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.
Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.