Pure patriotism

Events throughout area honor sacrifices of veterans, their families

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Mike Dane, with Combat Vet Riders, listens to musical performances Monday prior to presenting the colors as part of the City of Hayden Veteranís Day ceremony at city hall.

Trish Leonard-Walker didn't have to look far to find support as a veteran on Monday.

The Post Falls mother was surrounded by former, current and future military members during a Veterans Day ceremony at Ponderosa Elementary in Post Falls.

"We have a lot of family who has served," said Leonard-Walker. "It's an intense day for us."

Leonard-Walker, who served in Iraq with the Idaho Army National Guard, was accompanied at the event with her husband in uniform, Chris Walker, who also served in Iraq, her first-grade daughter Vivian Leonard and 19-year-old son Cody Leonard.

Cody has completed both basic and advanced individual training and is eager to carry on the family torch of serving his country.

"I grew up liking (the military) and have decided that it's my turn to take the place of whoever has gone before," Cody said.

The school ceremony was among several events throughout Kootenai County that honored the service and sacrifices of veterans and their families. Vets and their loved ones were recognized through songs, essays, photo displays, speeches, meals and good old-fashioned handshakes.

At a ceremony at Pinegrove Cemetery in Rathdrum, keynote speaker, World War II veteran and state Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, recognized all of the generations who have served.

"There has always been a great generation, that has stepped forward to defend this country, that we need to be grateful for," Henderson said during the windy, chilly ceremony attended by about 70.

Henderson is one of just six state legislators in the country who are World War II veterans and have earned a National Medal of Civic Honor for the distinction.

Post Falls' Dale Bowe, an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War, couldn't attend any ceremonies on Monday due to disabilities, but reflected throughout the day on his service and that of others.

During his service, Bowe survived a fierce winter storm, witnessed a missile explode, battled a jet fuel fire and assisted fighter planes landing at a runway in Vietnam. He was later involved in a vehicle accident that caused serious injuries and him to be hospitalized for 19 months before he was released from active duty.

"It wasn't always fun and it wasn't always easy, but we got the job done," Bowe said. "A lot of lives have been paid to earn freedom. Freedom is earned at a very high price. I was fortunate to get to come back home."

Ponderosa Principal Kathy Baker was encouraged to see many military families attend the school ceremony.

"We will honor what you have done for us by striving to live the best lives we can," Baker told veterans and their families.

Harrison Baker, Kathy's fifth-grade son, honored his grandfather and Army Col. Earl Greer with an essay.

"My grandpa respected all soldiers on the battlefield," Baker wrote. "During the war, my grandpa captured three enemies. When they were being tied up, one of the U.S. soldiers whacked one on the head with his rifle. But my grandpa stopped him. According to the Geneva Convention, you're supposed to treat the enemy with respect."

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin and Rathdrum Mayor Vic Holmes, who spoke at ceremonies in their respective cities, also recognized the sacrifices made by veterans' families as a key ingredient to freedom.

"Families share the fears and victories together," Holmes said. "We have the greatest nation on earth."

Aiden Tomlinson, 7, of Post Falls, leads family members while displaying a large flag prior to Veterans Day celebrations in Hayden.

 

Ronald Johnson, a 32-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, right, and Wesley Smith, a Navy veteran of 20 years, salute during the singing of the National Anthem Monday during a Veterans Day assembly at Post Falls Middle School.

 

Vivian Leonard, a Ponderosa Elementary first-grader, listens to Veterans Day speakers with her mother, Trish Leonard-Walker, and stepfather Chris Walker on Monday during a ceremony at the Post Falls school. Both Trish and Chris served in Iraq with the Idaho Army National Guard.

 

Post Falls' Steve Frazey, an Air Force veteran who served during the Korean War, stands and acknowledges singing by the Ponderosa Elementary choir on Monday.

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