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With combat experience spanning seven decades, vets gather at Arena Sunday

November 12, 2018

Sitting alone in the front row of the Spokane Veteran’s Day ceremony in a crisp dress uniform, veteran Ken Holmes exchanged greetings with other service members as they passed by.

Holmes participates in veteran’s events twice a year – once on Memorial Day, and again on Veteran’s Day. He said his military service – 21 years in the in the marines and army – is a chapter is his life that is now over, but he still tries to attend for the sake of those he served with, who themselves never had the opportunity.

“I know what I did,” he said, “but there are an awful lot of guys who can’t be here and we honor them.”

Holmes was one of dozens of veterans and military families gathered at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena Sunday morning for a ceremony to honor those who have served in the armed forces. He said he was the second of three generations of paratroopers, and went to Vietnam multiple times.

The veterans ceremony included the performance of every military branches’ anthem by the 560th Retired Military Veteran’s band, and featured speeches from leaders from the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, Fairchild Airforce Base and Mayor David Condon.

While addressing the crowd, Condon, a U.S. Army Veteran himself, asked Spokane to honor its veteran community all year round.

“I call on our city to join all of you in the celebration of our veterans,” he said. “But more importantly, not only show your gratitude today, but show it tomorrow, next week, next month, next year as well.”

Several speakers at the ceremony, such as Col. Derek Salmi, the 92 Air Refueling Wing Commander at Fairchild Airforce Base, discussed the history of veteran’s day in light of the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I. He also highlighted Spokane’s military connections and history, such as the Lilac Festival, the veteran’s cemetery and memorials spread across the region.

The experiences of the veterans present spanned seven decades. The only World War II veteran in attendance, 92-year-old Bill Town, said he hadn’t missed a ceremony in 20 years.

Town, who spent three and a half years in the marines and more than three decades as a chaplain, said he always looks for other marines at veterans ceremonies, but wishes he saw more. He said he understands why veterans might not want to come out and participate in large events, but always hopes a large group will show.

“To me,” he said. “It’s an honor to be here.”

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