Whether they wore the uniform seven decades ago, or five, or just yesterday, the Valley’s veterans still serve their neighbors. For many, a tradition of taking action to make a better world, and better Valley, has never stopped.
Take the four older gentlemen who make up the Color Guard at the local American Legion post. Veterans of Vietnam, most of them—with one exception, World War II vet Lee Scheeler—these men shoulder vintage rifles and stand tall at all the local cemeteries to ensure their vanished brothers and sisters in service are not forgotten.
These folks ended military careers years ago, but their service goes on, whether it’s fundraising by selling coffee to sleepy motorists on I-90, riding a motorcycle to the memorial Wall in D.C., or hooking up younger vets with some of the benefits they’ve earned.
The local Legion post is always trying to connect with veterans in the Valley, and would like local military families to connect with them in turn. Too often, post members learn about local veterans, and their needs, sooner rather than later.
Today, the local post gives financial help to families of reservists, who often take a severe pay cut when their time of service rolls around. The group also helps active-duty families, when called.
The Legion and Auxiliary members, their spouses and friends, work every summer to put on the Wounded Warrior horse therapy weekend in Fall City, which helps families transformed by conflict and service come together. And one day a month, the color guard travels to Tahoma National Cemetery to honor people they’ve never met in their final solemnities.
This week, the post is involved with the book signing by military-family author LaRae Ricarte, this Saturday, Nov. 9, in Fall City (See full story). You can find members at local Veteran's Day assemblies, and they traditionally mark the Memorial and Veteran's Day holidays at the local cemeteries and with a gathering and meal at the post.
Vets also go to local schools to personalize Veteran’s Day lessons (One is planned for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Chief Kanim Middle School). I asked Rick Woodruff, Post Commander, what it’s like going to the schools, where, this week and next, students and teachers put on assemblies recognizing these folks. That’s a loaded question, he told me.
Today, students are very respectful, and treat veterans with reverence. Things were different 40 years ago, when soldiers were persona non grata at many schools and colleges. For veterans, that disrespect was painful. Now, the encounters, certainly those I’ve seen in the Valley, are touching in their respect. For Woodruff, they’re a pleasure.
For those who served, the military was a life-changing experience, and the good and the bad of that stay with those folks for a lifetime. Former soldiers don’t always open up to their families about their wartime experiences. It’s the vets organizations that give veterans a place to share in the feelings of comradeship, something that isn’t really available anywhere else.
Most of the folks who are active today are Vietnam veterans. There are still a few World War II veterans involved, but they’re getting on in years. A handful of younger vets, from the Gulf War era to today, are involved. But new faces are needed.
If you’re a vet, consider being a part of local veteran’s organizations. If you’re not, it’s worth knowing what those veterans who are involved do for others, from veteran families to civilians and the wider community.
To join the Legion, just visit and fill out a form. In the past, the rules for entry were tricky, but anyone who’s served their country since 1991 can enter.
• Get involved by calling Post Cmdr Rick Woodruff at (425) 292-3377, or visit http://post79.org/.