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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Military

With combat experience spanning seven decades, vets gather at Arena Sunday

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 12, 2018

Sitting alone in the front row of the Spokane Veterans Day ceremony in a crisp dress uniform, veteran Ken Holmes exchanged greetings with other service members as they passed by.

Holmes participates in veterans events twice a year – once on Memorial Day, and again on Veterans Day. He said his military service – 21 years in the Marines and Army – is a chapter of his life that is now over, but he still tries to attend for the sake of those he served with, who themselves never had the opportunity.

“I know what I did,” he said, “but there are an awful lot of guys who can’t be here and we honor them.”

Holmes was one of dozens of veterans and military family members gathered at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Sunday morning for a ceremony to honor those who have served in the armed forces. He said he was the second of three generations of paratroopers, and went to Vietnam multiple times.

The veterans ceremony included the performance of every military branch’s anthem by the 560th Retired Military Veterans Band, featured speeches from leaders of the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, Fairchild Air Force Base and Mayor David Condon.

While addressing the crowd, Condon, a U.S. Army veteran himself, asked Spokane to honor its veteran community all year round.

“I call on our city to join all of you in the celebration of our veterans,” he said. “But more importantly, not only show your gratitude today, but show it tomorrow, next week, next month, next year as well.”

Several speakers at the ceremony, such as Col. Derek Salmi, the 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander at Fairchild Air Force Base, discussed the history of Veterans Day in light of the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I. He also highlighted Spokane’s military connections and history, such as the Lilac Festival, the veterans cemetery and memorials spread across the region.

The experiences of the veterans present spanned seven decades. The only World War II veteran in attendance, Bill Town, said he hadn’t missed a ceremony in 20 years.

Town, who spent 3 1/2 years in the Marines and more than three decades as a chaplain, said he always looks for other Marines at veterans ceremonies, but wishes he saw more. He said he understands why veterans might not want to come out and participate in large events, but always hopes a large group will show.

“To me,” he said. “It’s an honor to be here.”

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