ARLINGTON — The 21-gun salute was rendered, the military vehicles were on display and the veterans were soon chatting up a storm at the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Hall and Museum’s annual “Military Day.”
Before Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 Junior Vice Cmdr. Nathan Farmer, Community Affairs Chair Bill Morse and Senior Vice Cmdr. Jack Hayes took up their rifles to fire off their series of shots, David King of Mill Creek had returned to show off yet another vehicle in his military collection, this time a 1942 Slat Grill Jeep with an M1919A4 .30-caliber Browning machine gun mounted on its side.
“I had the gun before I had the Jeep, but I’ve had the Jeep for almost eight years now,” said King, a faithful visitor to each year’s “Military Day” who has eight military vehicles in his fleet now. “I try to make it here every year to show my respect and honor our past and present military members. I’ll go just about wherever I’m invited for this. I drove my World War II Harley up to Anchorage this year as part of a convoy, and that was a bumpy ride, let me tell you.”
Mike Schanche, who recently retired from his 30-year Navy career after having achieved the rank of Command Master Chief of Naval Station Everett, donned a civilian suit and tie to address the room of fellow veterans following the 21-gun salute.
“I see a lot of WWII veterans here, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Schanche said. “You guys wrote the pages of history, which we’ve strived to uphold. You should take great pride in your legacy, especially as the young men and woman of today’s armed forces continue to uphold your same high standards.”
Schanche reported that Naval Station Everett’s observance that morning, of the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was an appropriately moving ceremony.
Morse recalls not learning the full extent of his father’s service in the European theater during WWII until his passing.
“It wasn’t until I read his DD-214 form that I discovered he’d been wounded in the Battle of the Bulge,” Morse said. “Three Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantry Badge for 13 months and 21 days in the Army. I sure didn’t make sergeant as quick as he did,” he laughed, before turning serious. “But he never talked about it. I had relatives on the USS Arizona when it sank. Four of my namesakes are on that memorial. If it wasn’t for the WWII vets, we’d be speaking a different language.”
Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum caretaker Marty Rausch explained how “Military Day” started 12 years ago, with the dedication of a military memorial on site, and promised that it would continue to take place on Dec. 7, regardless of which day of the week the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack falls upon in a given year.
“Sometimes we’ve had re-enactors here, lots of times we’ve had military vehicles, but our museum has always been open on this day,” Rausch said. “This day is a chance for community members to meet veterans, and for veterans to exchange ideas with each other. My brother was in the Korean war, and it wasn’t until after he died that I found out that he’d earned a Purple Heart.”
Jared Dickson was one of the survivors of the sinking of the USS Curtiss at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, and his recollections echoed Schanche’s observation that many of the sailors who fought and died that day had barely entered adulthood.
“Those boys who were 17 back then would be 88 today,” Dickson said. “I’ll be 92 in a couple of months. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was a terrifying experience that I don’t care to talk about. I’m real proud of the fellows who fought for our country at the time, but we’re all going to be a thing of the past very soon.”