It’s not yet Memorial Day, but Saturday felt a lot like it at Vancouver’s Pearson Air Museum.
As a five-piece band played outside the museum, families toured military booths, ate hot dogs and took part in raffles and children’s activities, all in observance of Armed Forces Day.
Also at the Fort Vancouver National Site, the Vancouver Exchange, which is the birthplace of the military post exchange system, had a celebration.
Meanwhile, military families were invited to Silver Buckle Ranch in Brush Prairie for “Operation Free Ride” — horse rides, lawnmower train rides and a barbecue.
The theme at all sites was honor and appreciation for those who serve and their families.
All branches of military services were represented at Pearson. Nikki Hubert, whose father is a Vietnam War veteran, sang the national anthem for the crowd to kick off festivities.
Hubert, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School, said she thinks it’s important to have events to honor the military because, sometimes, “People don’t feel like they’re appreciated.”
She has sung at such ceremonies before. “People ask if it’s an obligation,” she said. “It’s not.”
A clown was on hand for face-painting, and the YMCA organized games for children.
About two dozen organizations were part of the Pearson event, including services for veterans. The observance was sponsored by Partners in Careers, a Vancouver nonprofit that provides job training, placement and coaching for veterans and other job seekers.
Aside from holidays honoring the military, Vancouver City Councilor Larry Smith, who is a retired Army colonel, said employment opportunities are what soldiers coming home need most.
“The biggest thing the community can do for veterans is find them employment,” Smith said.