Carnation American Legion putting a spotlight of honor on Vietnam-era veterans

Marty Schencke, leading the color guard in the Carnation 4th of July parade, is organizing a celebration of Vietnam-era veterans on June 2. - File photo
Marty Schencke, leading the color guard in the Carnation 4th of July parade, is organizing a celebration of Vietnam-era veterans on June 2.
— image credit: File photo

Veterans are the focus, but everyone, especially families with children, are invited to an old-fashioned community celebration of military men and women this Sunday. The tribute, complete with food and drink, displays of old military weapons and vehicles, and flag ceremonies, runs from 2 to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, June 2 at Carnation’s American Legion Hall.

“We want to honor those who served between 1955 and 1974,” said event organizer and Post 199 first vice-commander Marty Schencke, adding that those years “correspond to the Vietnam era… the next group is post-Vietnam, Cold War, up to about ‘95 and Desert Storm.”

Schencke and the post have, over the past two years, held periodic events to honor veterans of a specific era.

Veterans of World War II, which drafted more than 10 million soldiers into service between 1940 and 1946, were recognized previously,  and Korean War (1950-53) veterans were honored in a similar celebration last October.

Sunday’s event is also Schencke’s day, since he served during the Vietnam era, but he’s reticent about his own service.

“I started in ‘74, but that doesn’t really count,” he says. “I was in training, I didn’t really do anything in ‘74.”

Schencke says his inspiration for the event came from the heroes in uniform he sees every day, including soldiers, police and firefighters. Hero worship these days often goes more to actors or sports figures, he said, and “They’re not heroes. Heroes are the people who put their lives on the line for their country, for their community.”

He hopes lots of children will come to the event, he says, to see real heroes. “I want the young people to see that, to see their neighbors and know that these are the guys who made  the sacrifice.”

The event is open to all veterans, of all eras, and from all over the area, not just Carnation. Regardless of how many people come, Schencke is making sure they have a memorable event to enjoy.

“Each time that we do it, we learn more about how to throw an event like this,” he said.

So this year’s event will include five bands performing live music throughout the day, a display of (unloaded) firearms from that era, and, he hopes, a large display of refurbished military vehicles from area collectors. There could be a tank, he said, or maybe a howitzer on a track, but “I hesitate to promise anything because these things break down!”

Photographer Shaun McWhinney will take group portraits throughout the day, and the event begins at 2 with a reception, followed at 2:30 by comments from Carnation Mayor Jim Berger, Duvall Mayor Will Ibershof, and a presentation by a Tolt Middle School student. The only other items on the schedule are a flag lowering and folding ceremony, and a flag retirement ceremony, both conducted by local Boy Scouts.

“It’s an ebb-and-flow thing,” Schencke said. Guests can come and go as they like. “The main thing is we just want to honor the veterans, thank them for a job well done, show them America loves them … and acknowledge for the young people, these people are the true heroes.”

Parking on site will be extremely limited, since the military vehicles will be on display outside. Some motorcycle parking is provided across Bird Street at Hopelink, but for most people planning to attend, Schencke strongly encourages parking across Tolt Avenue at the Sno Valley Senior Center.

A shuttle van will take guests to and from the Legion Hall, to ensure their safety crossing the highway, and to free up parking at the Hall.

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