Veterans Day speakers: Remember daily to be thankful for service

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter




Fort Vancouver National Historic Site will offer free admission on Saturday and Sunday, in honor of the Veterans Day weekend. All entrance fees are being waived at all National Park Service sites during the holiday weekend for all visitors, not just for veterans or military personnel. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site now is on its winter schedule, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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Veterans Day offers an opportunity each year to reflect on the sacrifice of those who won our freedoms and those who have protected them.

Actually, they deserve more than the 11th day of the 11th month.

That reminder was delivered a couple of times Friday during the annual Veterans Day observance at Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery.

Marine Sgt. Major Eric D. Sheline, the featured speaker, said that we should never quit thinking about veterans.

“Don’t wait for this day,” said Sheline, an instructor/inspector with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion based on Swan Island in Portland.

“My family prays every day for those in danger, and their families,” said Sheline, a Camas resident.

Since joining the Marines in 1987, Sheline participated in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, was squad leader of an anti-terrorism team in Mogadishu, Somalia, and was deployed twice to Kuwait in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sheline noted the range of roles played by our nation’s veterans: “They’ve brought freedom to people living under dictators, and they’ve brought relief to victims of Mother Nature.”

In his closing comment, Vancouver City Council member and retired Army colonel Larry Smith also urged the community to remember its veterans every day, “Not just on Veterans Day.”

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt highlighted the military’s contributions to this community.

“This is a city with a long and storied military history,” Leavitt said. “We are grateful for past leaders, like Gen. George Marshall, who have helped shape our community.”

While former Vancouver soldiers such as Marshall and Ulysses S. Grant still are high-profile names, Leavitt urged those in the audience to think about those who put aside their personal ambitions and dreams to guard our freedoms.

And don’t forget their families, Leavitt added.

“The families of veterans have endured long separations, moved their children from school to school, and suffered the anguish of uncertainty” when their loved ones were in harm’s way, Leavitt said.

After noting the veterans in her own family, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, used a congressional colleague as an example of sacrifice. Texas legislator Sam Johnson was a pilot who was captured during the Vietnam War. He spent seven years in the prison nicknamed “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was beaten savagely.

Beutler said she was a congressional aide when she heard Johnson give a speech that still resonates with her. The pain that comes from a nation’s indifference, Johnson said, is 10 times worse than the pain inflicted by enemy captors.