Nearly 1,000 fill Coast Guard hangar for Veterans Day assembly

Patriotic notes from the Port Angeles High School band filled the Coast Guard helicopter hangar at Ediz Hook as nearly 1,000 veterans and community members filed in Tuesday morning.

They gathered at Coast Guard Group/Air Station Port Angeles to celebrate Veterans Day and to honor the service of all military veterans.

Korean War veterans were given a special tribute, with a segment of the 90-minute program devoted to them.

Army veteran Don Roberts, nurse Mary Reid, Navy veteran Charles Gagnon and Air Force veteran Jerry Retella shared their stories of what it was like in Korea during the height of the war in the early 1950s.

Coast Guard narrator Adam Saurin weaved in historical information about the war between each storyteller’s personal account.

The mortality rate, 4.5 percent in World War II, fell 2.5 percent in Korea, Reid told the audience.

One of the reasons for that was the M.A.S.H. units, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, like the ones she worked in during the Korean War and made famous by the 1972-1983 television series.

Roberts described the war as a highly mobile operation in 1951 and a much different, “World War I-type” of conflict in 1952.

“There were bloody fights for one piece of terrain not worthy of one soldier’s life,” Roberts said.

Roberts thanked the crowd for attending the ceremony. “I appreciate it very much,” he said.

The Port Angeles High School band played a medley of armed forces theme songs while veterans of each branch were asked to stand and be recognized by the audience.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Erik Langenbacher served as master of ceremonies. Capt. Scott Pollock, the base commander, read a letter of tribute and closed by saying, “I too, would like to salute you and thank you for your service.”

The Olympic Peninsula Men’s Choir sang the national anthem.

The Grand Olympics Chorus of Sweet Adelines performed two numbers before the singing groups joined up for “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Other highlights included the Rev. Margaret Bourne-Raiswell’s invocation and benediction, a rifle salute by the Marine Corps League Honor Guard and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by bagpipers Don Alward and Bill Shepherd.

The Port Angeles Coast Guard base has been a regional Veterans Day observance site for 13 years.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com

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