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Arlington honors veterans

ARLINGTON — Veterans Day in Arlington was observed through remembrance ceremonies conducted by the community, even before Nov. 11 itself.

Post Middle School’s morning assembly Nov. 10 in honor of veterans recounted the history of the observance of the day and drew members of nearly all the branches of service, some of whom work at the school itself.

Post Middle School nurse Nanci Johnson and Principal David McKellar both take pride in their years of service in the Air Force. Johnson served in support of war readiness for Operation Desert Storm, while McKellar credited his time in uniform with giving him the confidence to pursue a college career.

“It was the most memorable time of my life,” Johnson said. “My 19th birthday was my first day in basic training, and my 22nd or 23rd birthday was the first day of the war. I’d like to see respect for the military come back.”

“Those were the formative years of my life,” McKellar said. “I was given a lot of responsibility that helped me see and reach my potential. I didn’t think I was college material. Ceremonies like this choke me up every time.”

The downtown Arlington Veterans Day parade on Nov. 11 featured not only members of the local American Legion post and area Scout troops, but also reminded attendees of the ultimate sacrifice that many military members make on behalf of their nation, as members of the Arlington High School Air Force Junior ROTC carried banners bearing the names, photos and hometowns of fallen veterans from across the state.

“I only get to wear this uniform twice a year,” said retired Army Lt. Col. John Haberle, who stood at attention as the truck carrying the surviving World War II veterans drove past. “I served 28 years, four months and four days. I was actually out when they called me back up for Operation Desert Storm. I was active duty for training my whole time in, but those last four months in Desert Storm made me active duty,” he laughed.

During the Arlington American Legion Post 76 meal for veterans later that day, WWII and Korea veteran George Etsell caught up with his daughter, Seattle resident Nancy Wistrom, in the Legion Lounge.

“Dad never talks about his time in the service,” said Wistrom, who’s been going through his Navy paperwork for his medical benefits. “He’s more of a move-forward kind of guy. But I’m glad he brought me here today. This has been an inspiring afternoon.”

Etsell has lived and worked as a university professor in mathematics and engineering in Anchorage, Alaska, for the past 30 years, but recently moved down to the Olympic Place retirement community in Arlington for medical reasons. At 87 years old, he admitted to being surprised at having lasted this long, and said he has too many memories of his years in the Navy to recount them all.

“I was a draft-dodger,” Etsell laughed. “I didn’t want to be drafted into the Army, so I joined the Navy. It took me 10 years to finish college, because they kept reactivating me for duty.”

Florence Pryor was honored during the meal for her decades of service on behalf of military members since she joined the Legion in 1946. The 94-year-old got involved in the Legion through her brother, Ben Olsen, who went on to serve in Saipan and Okinawa during WWII. Her son served for 21 years in the Air Force, and her great-grandson has recently been redeployed to Afghanistan.

“We should never forget our servicemen,” said Pryor, who received an American flag and a plaque in recognition of her work.

Betty Nelson, a fellow member of both Post 76 and the Old Bags of Arlington, described Pryor as a tireless volunteer regardless of the tasks she chooses.

“Nobody can competed with that lady,” Nelson laughed. “She’ll say she’s retiring from volunteering three or four times a year, but two weeks later, she can’t help but start up her work again.”

This year’s ceremonies in honor of veterans will continue with “Military Day,” Dec. 7 from 1-4 p.m. at the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Hall. The flag ceremony is set to kick off at 1 p.m. and will be followed by coffee, punch and cookies.

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