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Veterans, families gather at Spokane Arena to celebrate sacrifices of military service members

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 11, 2019

Vietnam and Desert Shield Army veteran Harold Watters gets a hug from Mary DeLateur during the Veterans Day Ceremony at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Dozens of retired service members stood Monday morning as Robert Fischer, director of the Mann-Grandstaff Veteran Affairs Medical Center, acknowledged veterans of the Vietnam War at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

And many more stood as Fischer called for veterans of the Korean War, Gulf War and other conflicts in the Middle East to stand.

One man stood up by himself as the lone veteran of World War II while more than 200 other veterans and family members clapped for him.

“Look at the generations of American veterans who have served our grateful nation right here in Spokane on Veterans Day,” said Fischer, an Air Force veteran. “Thank you so much.”

Spokane Mayor David Condon, an Army veteran, noted the growing ways the United States has honored veterans since Nov. 11, 1918.

What began as Armistice Day to celebrate the end of World War I expanded in 1954 after World War II to include veterans who fought in a growing number of international conflicts. More than 400,000 American service members died in World War II and more than 100,000 have died in conflicts since.

“No matter which branch you served in, whatever your job path or how many years you served, raising your hand and committing yourself to service in the military was a brave and selfless act,” Condon said.

Col. Derek Salmi, the Commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base, gave the crowd at the Spokane Arena a definition of a veteran he saw on the back of a T-shirt at his daughter’s musical concert about a month ago.

“Someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life,” Salmi said. “Indeed, long past their time in uniform, veterans continue to pay service to this great nation as foundational pillars in our communities.”

Salmi said one of the best ways to show appreciation to veterans and remember those who died is to exercise one’s rights, such as worshiping, peacefully assembling and voting.

“Each of these actions, beautiful in their simplicity, truly honors those veterans who sacrificed so much in the course of history to preserve and protect these rights for future generations of Americans,” he said.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, singled out the Gold Star families in attendance at the Veterans Day event to note their sacrifices.

“It’s truly inspiring for me to be able to join all of you who have served, who are serving, and our families today as we salute you,” McMorris Rodgers said in a recording of the event from KHQ.

The keynote speaker at the ceremony, David Baird, a Navy veteran and the director of the Spokane Veterans Center, acknowledged the transition that service members make when leaving the military and offered them advice for finding a new calling.

“Veterans are mission focused, and if you want to stay on mission I have a challenge for you: find your gift, develop your gift and continue to give your gift,” Baird said. “It is in service that we find purpose, meaning and mission.”

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