Veterans don’t quit serving when they leave the military; they often find new missions.
That was just one of the messages when the community gathered for Friday’s Veterans Day observance.
In addition to thanking Clark County’s veterans, the event also offered some emotional insights into life as a family member of someone who has served — or is serving — in the armed forces.
And those identities often overlap. One of the few World War II veterans in the assembly hall drew a lot of “thank you” handshakes after the event, but that’s not why he attended; the 94-year-old was there to honor his brother, who was killed in 1942.
Clark County manager Mark McCauley, the keynote speaker, spent 20 years in the Army, with a final posting that brought his family to this area. Mark and Elizabeth McCauley’s three children have benefited from being part of a military family, he said. In addition to seeing the nation and the world, “They have seen sacrifice and dedication in action.”
The retired lieutenant colonel also offered a salute to three previous generations of veterans: His father was a career Air Force officer who piloted B-17s over Germany and B-29s over Korea, then flew with the CIA’s Air America operation during Vietnam War.
McCauley’s grandfather was a career Navy man, and his great-grandfather “enlisted in the Union army shortly after arriving from Ireland,” the keynote speaker said.
Veterans enter civilian life with qualities that prepare them for community service roles, McCauley said. High-profile examples include three retired officers whose Army careers took them to Vancouver Barracks: former Vancouver mayor Royce Pollard; former city councilor and mayor pro tem Larry Smith, who was the events master of ceremonies; and Clark College President Bob Knight, honored last week as the community’s First Citizen.
They weren’t the only people on his list. McCauley recognized several county employees who have served.
Republican state Reps. Paul Harris and Lynda Wilson reflected on the military service of their fathers. Wilson, elected Tuesday to the state Senate, said that her father enlisted in the Navy at age 17, then had a 20-year career in the Air Force as she was growing up.
“I didn’t know why my daddy kept leaving,” Wilson said. When she was 11, he spent a year in Thailand. “Once a month, we’d get a cassette tape that dad recorded. Those were the only times we heard his voice.”
Harris said that his dad enlisted in the Navy during WWII. He wound up in the Pacific, even though he had two good reasons to avoid military service. He had a Defense Department job, and he should have flunked his physical because of high blood pressure. Harris said his father had the doctor fudge the results so he pass the physical.
Col. Tom Olsen, military host for the event at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, said that his view of veterans has changed over the years.
“As a kid, the focus was on combat,” he said. Olsen now recognizes that the willingness to serve and sacrifice is as significant as military action, he said.
Art Schaeffer’s WWII service included a couple of notable combat operations in the Pacific. The Navy veteran had been attached to Marine units at Guadalcanal and Peleliu.
If You Go: Saturday’s Veterans Day events
• World War II veteran and longtime Camas physician Dr. Ed McAninch will be the featured speaker at the Camas-Washougal Historical Society’s annual meeting; it is at 2 p.m. at the Camas Police Department, 2100 N.E. Third Ave., Camas.
• Veterans will be honored at the Mt. Valley Grange, 40107 N.E. 221st Ave., Amboy. There is a pie and ice cream social at 5:30 p.m. ($3 for adults, $1.50 under 12) and music at 6:30 p.m. The program starts at 7 p.m. and is free. Speakers will be Prairie student Ally Orr and Pleasant Valley Middle School teacher Rene Soohoo, who researched a D-Day fatality from Washington; and Richard Langenbach, American Legion Tum Tum Post No. 68. Co-hosts are North Clark Historical Museum and Mt. Valley Grange.
When asked what brought him to the observance, Schaeffer replied, “I lost my brother in 1942.”
William Charles Schaeffer was a member of the armed guard on a Merchant Marine ship. They were Navy sailors assigned to man the guns on the merchant ships.
“My boy is named after him,” Schaeffer said.
The event is presented by the Community Military Appreciation Committee.