November 12, 2005 in City

Arena service honors veterans

Christopher Rodkey Staff writer
Photos by Holly Pickett/ photo

Pearl Harbor survivor Bob Ohnemus, second from right, of Cheney sits among friends and fellow survivors, from left, Joseph Wagner of Spokane, Ray Daves of Deer Park and Bill Paulakonis of Spokane during a Veterans Day ceremony Friday at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
(Full-size photo)

Seated in folding chairs in the arena named for them, veterans gathered Friday to remember their shared sacrifice and to honor those who died in battle.

More than 100 veterans gathered at the entrance of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to hear speeches, a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and a medley of military marches.

Dr. Leslie Burger, who tended soldiers for 33 years in the Army Medical Corps, told the mostly elderly crowd that the enduring message to remember on Veterans Day was clear in a quote from Dwight Eisenhower after the end of World War II: “Let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

“Peace is a goal that 50 years later still eludes us,” Burger said.

A few hours later, Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris joined officials at the Spokane VA Medical Center in opening an addition for urgent care and an updated emergency room.

American flags lining the entry road to the hospital slapped sharply in the wind as dozens of veterans and their families packed the new wing’s lobby.

“We do not fight for our country because we hate what’s in front of us, we fight because of what’s behind us,” said Maj. Sam Husmann of the Army National Guard. Husmann recently returned from a deployment in Iraq and told veterans that without them, he wouldn’t have joined the service.

“Ever since I was little I wanted to serve my country,” he said. “You were – and are – my heroes.”

Few young people attended either ceremony, which mostly contained members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. A troop of Boy Scouts appeared at the arena ceremony. Red envelopes, holding letters from schoolchildren and addressed “To a veteran,” were handed out to each of the former warriors.

At the arena ceremony, each veteran rose as the song for his or her branch of the military played over the loudspeaker.

After a moment of silence, a 21-gun salute rang out and a bugler played “Taps.” Veterans must dedicate themselves to informing a younger generation of the sacrifices made in the name of liberty, Burger said.

Burger spoke about watching a 10-year-old girl ask for a veteran’s autograph during a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Vancouver, Wash.

The old veteran leaned over, smiled, and signed the girl’s notebook.

“No doubt she will always remember that day and that moment,” Burger said.

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