PORT ANGELES — More than 250 veterans, their families, friends and community members gathered Saturday morning in the hangar at U.S. Coast Guard Station Port Angeles for the annual Veterans Day celebration, honoring those who had served their country.
The music-filled event was sponsored by the Clallam County Veterans Association and hosted by the Coast Guard station.
Keynote speaker Capt. Holly Harrison, chief of staff for the 13th District of the Coast Guard, said those who served in the military share a common bond and it’s important they support each other.
“You can try to explain what it was like, but words just never seem to do it justice,” said Rowan, who in 2003 became the first woman in the history of the Coast Guard to earn the Bronze Star Medal for her service as a cutter commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “You can’t explain how you felt, how hot it was, how tired you were, how scared you were to someone who wasn’t in a similar situation.”
It does not matter where a person served, the branch of service or what he or she did, Harrison said.
“When you look at the military, there’s more that unites us than separates us,” Harrison said. “There is something different about those who serve in uniform — the sense of duty, the sense of honor, the sense of purpose and dedication. We serve because we understand and value self-sacrifice for the greater good, and that is something you can’t explain. You simply have to feel it. It has to be who you are.”
Veterans from each of the armed forces stood as the Port Angeles High School band played their songs: “The Army Song,” “The Marines’ Hymn,” the U.S. Navy’s “Anchors Aweigh” and “The U.S. Air Force Song.” (The U.S. Space Force, established in 2019, was honored, but its song was not played.)
The Port Angeles High School Choir, the Grand Olympic Chorus and Juan de Fuca Harmony performed patriotic songs and joined together to sing “God Bless America.” The Marine Corps League Honor Guard provided a three-volley rifle salute and Coast Guard veteran Rick McKenzie of Port Angeles played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes to close out the ceremony.
Organizers said the Port Angeles celebration was the largest sponsored Veterans Day event west of the Mississippi River.