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County celebrates vets day on many fronts

It is well known Kitsap County residents render strong support to patriotic events. Veterans Day 2001 was no exception.

The annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Washington Veterans Home at Retsil near Port Orchard had standing room only to honor veterans, including the 300 residents.

With a central theme based on Vietnam veterans, Bob Jones, Retsil’s superintendent, welcomed the audience and introduced the guest speaker. Retired U.S. Marine Col. Jim Coolican, superintendent for the Peninsula School District, near Gig Harbor, relayed several poignant stories about his service in the infantry in Vietnam and the remarkable people surrounding him on a daily basis.

“I spent a lot of time as a Marine and during that time I learned to appreciate that our military is far superior to any military in the world. What makes our military different than any other military in the world? It’s not the great leadership, which we do have. It’s not the great weapons that we have. It’s the individual young person who joins the military, mostly out of high school. They don’t ask anything. They put on the uniform and they do their duty and they do it so well.”

Coolican went on to bolster the fact that young people in the U.S. military are not afraid to take charge in order to get the job done, which he said would never be condoned by any other military in the world.

He concluded his remarks with a perspective on veterans.

“I believe that I have the authority today, to say to all of us who are veterans, that our country is grateful for what we have done, for our service,” he said. “And I believe that what our country is saying to all of us, is thank you, for a job well done.”

The Kitsap County Veterans Coalition, led by President Bob Sauter, then made their veterans of the year announcements. Veteran queen of the year went to Joan Watte of American Legion Post 245 in Poulsbo. In a surprise announcement, Watte’s husband John was selected as veteran of the year. Lt. Barbara Rinehart, an RN at the Naval Hospital Bremerton, was chosen as the active duty veteran of the year and Betsy Jennings was selected from her among her peers as Retsil resident veteran of the Year.

In the early afternoon of Veterans Day, more than 150 people attended an observance and USS Turner Joy Homecoming ceremony on the ship along the Bremerton Boardwalk.

The gathering was sponsored by the Bremerton Historic Ships Association and the Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council of the Navy League. The ship recently returned from a $750,000 hull cleanup and preservation work package at a Seattle shipyard. A polished color guard and sideboys from the Navy League Sea Cadets set the tone for the ceremony.

Guest speaker Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, commended all the veterans attending.

“I think there is something going on right now that maybe suggests the good news is that the World War II generation that we celebrate, and many of you are here today, are really in a long line of past generations and future ones,” Inslee said. “I think the people who are serving right now in the Afghanistan campaign, proved to us that that legacy of pride and personal commitment to the freedoms we have, let us know that we are going to have a lot of veterans as long as America holds that lamp of freedom.”

Later in the ceremony retired Navy Capt. John Payne, former commanding officer of both the USS Sacramento and USS Carl Vinson, read the famous letter that was published in the early 1990s by Army Gen. Colin Powell extolling the readiness and virtues of the American GI.

At the conclusion of the event, a ceremonial wreath was tossed into the waters of Sinclair Inlet in memory of veterans killed in the nation’s battles as a single bugler sounded taps two decks above ship’s stern.

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