By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
Close to 200 people gathered under crisp, sunny skies on Monday afternoon in Sultan for the Veterans Day Ceremony. When the wind picked up just after the closing prayer, the flags flying above the Memorial Wall at First and Main Street stood at attention, seeming to give the ceremony an official salute.
Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick served as Master of Ceremonies, welcoming the community to the event, which included a presentation by Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, a visit from 39th District State Representative Elizabeth Scott, the National Anthem performed by Sultan resident Paula Thomas and a history of the Veterans Wall by former Sultan mayor C.H. Rowe.
The principal speaker for the event was retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Robert Reese.
Sgt. First Class Dave Sivewright performed a roll call and biographical information on several Sky Valley Veterans. The Friends of Sultan Boy Scouts Troup 52 did the presentation of colors and Sgt. Brian Johnston of the Monroe Police Department performed “The Minstrel Boy” on the bagpipes.
“A few days ago I asked my husband, ‘Help me write this speech. I need to have the right message,’ and he said to me, ‘You need to tell them what it takes to be a soldier,’” said Mayor Eslick in her opening statements.
Eslick outlined the personality traits that she discovered while researching what it takes to be a soldier; courage, loyalty, sense of duty, respect, a willingness to perform selfless service, honor, integrity, attention to detail and a tendency towards being innovative.
“I think our society has finally come to the conclusion that they are a huge asset to the business world,” said Eslick. “With those traits, who would not want to hire a veteran?”
She reported that Walmart has made a commitment of hiring 100,000 veterans in the next five years, and Starbucks and Verizon are both frontrunners when it comes to hiring veterans.
“I’m just a little mayor in the little town of Sultan. I have no idea what it takes to be a soldier, to be there, to be able to fight every day in combat, and then to come home, not knowing what to expect,” said Mayor Eslick. “But now, I hope that we have given them some hope.”
Eslick went on to introduce Suzan DelBene, who attended the event both to honor the veterans of the Sky Valley and also to present the cities of Sultan, Gold Bar and Index with celebratory centennial flags which have been flown in Washington, D.C. over the nation’s capitol.
“It’s on our behalf that all of you have served, and we’re here today to honor your courage, your selflessness, your devotion to duty that has sustained this country and our freedom,” said DelBene.
DelBene expressed gratitude to veterans and thanked them for their service.
“As a country, we owe our veterans a tremendous debt,” said DelBene. “We must support them and their families in words, but also, very importantly, in deeds.”
“If you fought for our country; you should not have to fight for a job when you return,” said DelBene.
DelBene presented the centennial flags to Mayor Eslick of Sultan, Mayor Joe Beavers of Gold Bar, and Index Town Councilman Ed Boress.
State Representative Elizabeth Scott is no stranger to military life. Her father served in the military, as did two of her grandfathers. She was close with one grandfather; the other she never got the opportunity to know as he was killed during World War II while serving in France.
Scott acknowledged her understanding of the sacrifices made by both veterans and their families.
She spoke of the grandfather with whom she was close; he was a Colonel in the U.S. Army who passed away last year at 93 years of age.
“He always said, ‘If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly,’” said Scott. “And he lived that to his very last day.”
Scott shared information about legislation that was passed during the regular spring legislative session which will make it easier for returning veterans to get enrolled in college, should they wish to do so.
Former Sultan mayor C.H. Rowe then shared the history of the Veterans Memorial Wall, which was largely built on donation materials and volunteer labor.
Brigadier General Robert Reese shared his thoughts in a heartfelt speech. Reese is the Regional Vice President of the Volunteers of America Western Washington.
Sgt. First Class Dave Sivewright gave biographical information on a few local Sky Valley veterans, including Sultan resident Mary Ann Sadowsky, a 92-year-old WWII Veteran who sat in the front row, enjoying the ceremony.
After the presentations were over, the crowd walked down to City Hall for cupcakes and other refreshments, and were treated to a display of military memorabilia.