Veterans Day in Issaquah Highlands is a family-friendly event in Village Green Park based on volunteer collaboration. Resident Paul Dean has volunteered every year, sharing his expertise and sincere gratitude for veterans. Below is his address at this year’s ceremony.
My name is Paul Dean, Pastor of Soma Eastside Church and resident of Issaquah Highlands. Welcome to our observation of Veterans Day in the Issaquah Highlands. This is an opportunity to recognize those who have served our country in the military.
According to Veterans groups, there are different ways that you can show appreciation for a Veteran on this day.
- Ask someone about their service. Take some time to listen.
- Donate to an organization that supports veterans.
- Show civic pride and appreciation by showing up to an event like this.
- Learn about the flag. Learn how to take it up and down with respect. And then display it with pride.
I went to Europe this summer. One of the motivating factors was to walk in the steps of veterans dear to me. I wanted to see the places I’d read about. I wanted to walk the fields where Doughboys walked 100 years ago. I wanted to see the lights of Paris. Most of all I wanted to walk the outskirts of Bastogne where in the winter of 1945 my grandpa held the line against Hitler’s last advance. Bastogne itself took me by surprise. It isn’t now like my Grandpa described, nor does it resemble the rubble and armaments from documentary movies or still photos from 1945. The town is now flooded with tourists, gift shops, and souvenirs. You can take your picture by a ruined tank; you can stay at the “themed” hotel; you can drink an airborne-themed beer that you poor into a mug shaped like a GI helmet. I could hear my grandpa cursing under his breath.
But, as I drove out of town, away from the noise and the knickknacks, with the help of an old map, I found the half-mile of old road between Bastogne and Fismes. Behind the road was a field and somewhere just off the road my Grandpa dug in – nearly 75 years ago. He struggled to dig 18 inches into the frozen turf as the Germans fired exploding shells into the air. In the heat of the battle a German soldier threw a grenade into my Grandpa’s shell hole. I wouldn’t be here today, but for a chaplain who smothered that grenade with his own body.
I walked that ground, a bit surprised by the emotions. I then drove into Fismes. No tourist shops there, just a little memorial that looked up at the half-mile of road, where my Grandpa’s chaplain and many of his other brothers-in-arms lived their last violent moments. The memorial thanked the American Airborne troops for saving their lives and for liberating their town. And someone had laid fresh flowers. The people of Belgium have not forgotten.
And here in Issaquah, far from the shelling, and violence, and we do not forget. We take a moment to lay our own flowers. We take time to thank the living for their service.
Thank you to those who have served our country in war and in peace. Those who served four years or six, or made service a career.
We are grateful for days like this where we can honestly say we don’t understand what you’ve done and seen. However, we don’t need to fully understand everything you have been through to be fully grateful.
So, today we specifically say…
- For volunteering when the rest of us did our own thing. Thank you.
- For being “volun-told” (or otherwise drafted). Thank you.
- For enduring months of boot camp, with a drill sergeant two inches from your face – yelling. Thank you.
- For enduring the difference between what the recruiter told you and what actually happened. Thank you.
- For serving in an unpopular war. You didn’t start the fight. You didn’t pick the battlefield. Your country called, and you saluted. Thank you.
- For being shot at and not running. Thank you.
- For serving in peacetime, keeping us strong. Thank you.
- For enduring the negative comments from other branches that believe they are superior. Thank you.
- For years of eating bad food and waiting for your small paycheck that is not always on time. Thank you.
- For seeing friends die. And seeing things you can’t forget. Thank you.
- For all the invisible wounds, that no one who didn’t serve with you understands. Thank you.
- For serving in places most of us cannot find on a map, and most certainly can’t pronounce. Thank you.
- For Khe Sanh, Tet, Hue, Rolling Thunder, Hamburger Hill. Thank you
- For Ad-Dawrah, Ras Tanura, Battle of Failaka, the Highway of Death, and the Battle of Rumaila. Thank you.
- For being a hero to a world that desperately needs heroes. Thank you.
- For letting us call you a hero when you believe that the ones who didn’t come back are the heroes. They are not forgotten. Still, you are our hero. Thank you.
These thanks are our flowers, our monument to you. Our moment away from the crowds to contemplate how others have served and how we might support and serve others based on your example.
Some of you served in war. Many of you served in peace, and we thank God for every moment of peace. You made us strong during peace time. Your strength helped keep us out of war.
We all thank you. Whether we have been here for generations, or new to these United States. We all benefit from safety, stability, and freedom. We are not ignorant of the cost. Safety requires a soldier standing at the wall. Stability requires consistent excellence in service, that is non-partisan, noble, brave. Freedom requires the willingness to risk it all.
Thank you, our Veterans, for the gift, the inspiration, and the example that you give this generation.
Thank you for letting us be with you here today, wearing a uniform, or a hat, or a patch so that we can thank you eye to eye.
Numerous volunteers come together to produce such an event. Many thanks to:
Girl Scout Troop #45335 (leader: Jo Mockford) for presenting the colors.
Cub Scout Pack #680 (leader: Allen Spenser) for setting up the venue, and decorating.
Children of Issaquah Highlands for the gifts, made with the support of Angela Bizarri of Epic Art in Issaquah.
Krista Faith for performing the National Anthem.
Carrie Jamison of Highlands Kids Club for leading us in patriotic songs.
Will Forrest of Summit Life Church for the audio services.
Girls Scout Troop #41754 (leader: Christine Stevens) for the Thank You letter writing table in Blakely Hall.