Capacity crowd fills Edmonds Veterans Plaza to remember and give thanks to those who served

More than 350 veterans, families, kids and well-wishers overflowed onto the sidewalks surrounding the Edmonds Veterans Plaza Monday afternoon, all drawn by one purpose — to honor, remember and connect with our military veterans.

Dan Doyle, VFW Post 8870 Chaplain, gave an emotional invocation that crystalized in a few words the meaning of the day.

“We’re here today to honor those who at some point in their lives signed a blank check to give, up to even their lives, in service to you,” he said, “so that you and we all could enjoy the liberties, peace and privileges of this nation.”

Emcee Rose Gilliland, VFW Post 8870 Commander, then took over.

“I feel like I’m sitting in a living history today,” she began. “I’m surrounded by veterans who have lived it, breathed it and done it.”

She went on to call on attendees from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom (the War on Terror), having each group stand to be recognized.

Keynote speaker was Rep. Strom Peterson (D – 21st District), who recalled how the Edmonds Veterans Plaza got its start during his tenure serving on the Edmonds City Council.

“It was about five years ago that a core group of organizers spearheaded by Jim Traner, Mike Denton and Ron Clyborne put their energies together to turn this area into a special place to honor veterans,” he said.  “At that time Edmonds was the only city of its size in the state that didn’t have a place to honor veterans. With dogged determination, this core group provided the energy and inspiration to accomplish this in record time.”

Peterson went on to stress the key role of the plaza in providing a place to make connections.

“For those who did not have the opportunity to serve, it’s a place to connect with and learn from those who did,” he explained.  “On sunny market days I see kids playing in the fountain, and maybe one of them will reach up and touch one of the service insignias, and I see the mother or father bend down to whisper in the child’s ear about what this means and what they are experiencing in this special place. And at that moment, a connection to our veterans has been made that spans generations. For veterans like Michael Reagan who walks by my house every day on his daily pilgrimage to the plaza, it’s a place to make connections with his friends, some of whom didn’t make it back. And for all of us, it’s a place to remember what it means to serve our country and our community.”

Jim Traner then took over to note the additional pavers recently placed in the plaza to honor and remember those who served.  These join the 230 other pavers comprising the walkway and patio areas.

Those honored with new pavers are as follows:

Ron Pajoman, Navy 1960-1965

Edward Johnson, Navy 1942-1946

Chuck Smith, Army 1963-1999

Paul Hauck, Army 1944-1946; 1947-1963

Patrick Marker, Marines 1944-1946; 1950-1951

Jim Roy Harrison, Navy 1942-1945

John, Gregg and Kim Sharp, Marines, Navy and Navy respectively (single paver)

Beau Crabtree, Army 1991-2001

Jack Oharah, Navy 1962-1966

Donald Stapleton, Air Force, 1957-1978

Jeffrey James Curtis, Marines, 1966-1967

William Cobb, Marine 1966-1968

Traner then moved on to honor Vietnam veterans in attendance, calling to the podium Gold Star Mother Monica McNeal to present each of those who had not previously received one with a 50-year commemorative pin.

The program closed with Mike Denton leading attendees in a chorus of “God Bless America,” after which Rose Gilliland thanked the audience for attending and wished all a happy Veterans Day.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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