Hermiston’s annual Veterans Day Breakfast was a special occasion. It gave locals a chance to gather in celebration of our veterans.
“I love it,” Rose Johnsongale, a veteran and an American Legion member said.
Other veterans, who were at the event, expressed the same feeling. They said they were glad to be at the Hermiston Community Center, where the breakfast took place.
Hosted by Hermiston Parks and Recreation and American Legion Post No. 37, the breakfast was Friday, Nov. 11.
Attendees filled the venue and there wasn’t an empty seat — except for one.
Fallen comrade table
Up at the front of the venue, near flags placed by the American Legion, there was a small table with a single chair. On the table, there were several items, including a white tablecloth, a red rose in a vase, a candle, an overturned wine goblet, a Bible, a plate with a slice of lemon, a napkin and silverware.
A POW/MIA jacket was draped over the chair at the table.
A sign explained the display, stating the symbolism. The white table, for example, symbolized the purity of the motives of service people “when answering the call to duty.” The lemon slice was there to remind people “of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in foreign lands.”
Other items represented such things as “our everlasting concern for our missing men and women,” “the tears endured by those who are missing and their families who seek answers” and more.
Attendees expressed appreciation for the event
Johnsongale, who served 1980 to 2004, said this was her fifth year at the breakfast. She said that she likes it because it allows her a chance to commune with fellow vets, with whom she has a lot in common.
She said the military creates a rare experience for people like her. It gives people a chance to see the world and interact with foreign cultures. Johnsongale, for example, traveled to Panama, Germany and Italy. She said she likes to talk about her adventures with other individuals, and they tell her about their trips, too.
“I don’t get to do this sort of thing in my day-to-day life,” she said.
Being in the military, she said, was one of the best things she has ever done, and she said she was glad to talk with others about it.
Another veteran, Don Hayworth of Hermiston, said he was pleased to be at the breakfast, too. Like Johnsongale, he said his service was memorable.
“It was a little bit nervy sometimes,” he said.
Hayworth served in the Navy, 1965-69, and he delivered supplies up and down Vietnam’s Da Nang river during the war.
He said this was his first breakfast. He hadn’t been at earlier ones, he said, because he hadn’t heard of it before. Recently, as he was volunteering at Agape House, someone told him about the event, and he said he’d give it a chance.
As he was waiting for his turn to get some food, he said he was impressed by it and that he was happy to have come.
Dan Dorran, Umatilla County commissioner, was another one of the veterans at the event.
“It feels better now than then,” he said, as he compared to his experience at the breakfast to his feelings during his service.
Dorran served in the Army 1974-1976.
He said that “all veterans should be honored each day.”
Attendees offered their support
Greg Smith, Oregon State representative, was among the attendees.
“It’s an honor to be among such honorable men and women,” he said.
Other local residents made similar statements.
Hermiston High School student Katie Hennings, for example, said “it’s a special honor” to be in the same room as the veterans. She said this as she walked around the room and re-filled their water glasses.
According to Aaron Wetterling, American Legion Post No. 37 commander, Hennings is an honorary member of his post, as she has volunteered at several veterans events.
A couple of Umatilla County Fair princesses were at the breakfast and among the greeters. They welcomed people at the door.
Ashlynn Cutburth and Kylie Temple said they were exited to be able “to give back” and “thank veterans for their service.”
Cutburth’s father is a veteran, and each of the princesses said they know veterans and care about them.
“It’s the least we can do,” Temple said.
Also in attendance, Brandon Artz, Parks and Recreation director, was there to help. He said he was glad that his department could play a part in honoring the veterans. Also, he said, he was impressed by the support received from the community.
He said that Kiwanis International, Rogers Toyota of Hermiston, Lamb Weston, Umatilla Electric Cooperative, Burns Mortuary of Hermiston, Barnett & Moro and Specks Printing were all sponsors for the Veterans Day Breakfast.
“We were able to put on a meal that brings together people who may not see one another at any other time during the year, and it’s with the help of all these sponsors that we were able to do that,” he said.