MARYSVILLE — Chili, conversation and camaraderie were all on the menu as the Marysville American Legion Post 178 Hall, located at 119 Cedar Ave., invited veterans and civilian community members alike to their annual Veterans Day open house and chili feed on Monday, Nov. 11.
The event opened with a short ceremony which included a moment of silence, to commemorate the signing of the armistice ending World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, followed by a flag ceremony in honor of the occasion, but the majority of time was set aside for veterans to sit with their families, friends and fellow service members, and to share their own stories of service.
The respective tours of duty of Walt Bailey and Farlan Dubarry bookended World War II, since Bailey had enlisted in the Army in the summer before the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, while Dubarry's time in the Army Infantry saw him spending his 19th birthday in a foxhole in Okinawa in 1945.
"They gave me my choice of the Philippines, Panama or Hawaii after basic, and I chose Hawaii because it was semitropical," said Bailey, who experienced the attacks on Pearl Harbor firsthand. "It was a Sunday morning, so I was using my spare time to do some weeding in the flower beds around the barracks, when I saw the antiaircraft fire. They were firing both live and target ammunition, so puffs of both white and black smoke were going up."
It wasn't long at all before Bailey joined in the fight, taking aim at one Japanese pilot who'd gotten uncomfortably close before Bailey had gotten the ammo to fire back at him.
"I could actually see him sitting in his cockpit," Bailey said. "When I finally was able to fire, I got off nine rounds at him."
Bailey hopes that his fellow Americans will learn from not only Pearl Harbor, but also more recent tragedies such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that they should remain vigilant in defense of their country's freedoms and its people.
Dubarry, who began working as a baker at the age of 16, had tried to enlist when he was 17, but his mother vetoed it. His culinary experience would prove handy, however, after he was finally drafted when he turned 18, since he wound up working as a replacement cook in the galley of a Navy ship on its way to Leyte, before he was ultimately sent to Okinawa as a machine-gunner.
"I still dream about it," Dubarry said. "One time, I got up to go visit my buddies in the next foxhole over, and an artillery shell went off in my own foxhole. To this day, I feel very fortunate. America had a population of about 160 million people back then, of which 16 million were serving in the military. The Infantry only makes up about 10 percent of the Army, but it made up about 90 percent of the casualties."
As far as Dubarry is concerned, he beat the odds not only by surviving WWII, but also its aftermath, since he had to undertake a final mission to help deal with remaining entrenched Japanese soldiers, before he was called up from the Reserves to serve again in Korea, where he took some shrapnel to his cheek.
"At 88 years old, I've lived a lot longer than I ever thought I would," Dubarry said. "I look at these kids in uniform now and think, 'Was I ever that young?'"
Former U.S. Navy sailor Dale Nakken also survived WWII to reach the age of 88, and on Oct. 13, in the midst of the federal government shutdown, he was accompanied by his son Tim on a nonprofit "Honor Flight" trip for an estimated 30 fellow Puget Sound veterans, along with their roughly 20 caretakers, to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial and Arlington Cemetery.
"It was exciting because of the shutdown," Dale Nakken said. "The protestors tore down the barriers so we could roll our wheelchairs through, and on each side of the road, there were hundreds of patriots cheering us on. The people who put on these Honor Flights are all volunteers, and it takes a lot of money and hard work for them to do it. They do a fantastic job."
Dale and Tim Nakken expressed their appreciation to the shows of gratitude that Dale and his fellow WWII veterans received, especially since they still recall how difficult serving in Vietnam had been for Jack Nakken, Dale's other son and Tim's older brother.
"The Vietnam veterans sacrificed a lot and were really left out," Tim Nakken said. "There was a terrible reaction against them, and Jack had a hard time with it. I saw a lot of lost souls when I was growing up."
Post 178 1st Vice Cmdr. Anthony Juarez, who chaired this year's Veterans Day festivities, noted that civilians can still show their support for those who serve even after Nov. 11, since the Marysville American Legion Post 178 Hall is set to host the one-year anniversary of "Operation Desert Comfort" on Saturday, Nov. 30, when volunteers will begin setting up at 8 a.m., start serving breakfast at 9 a.m. and commence assembling care packages for American military members serving overseas at 10 a.m.
"Nov. 29 is the actual anniversary, but this lets us pack on a Saturday," said Juarez, who explained that Operation Desert Comfort will be packing 100 care packages at the Everett Elks Lodge on Saturday, Nov. 23, before returning to the Marysville Legion Hall to pack another 100 boxes on Nov. 30. "This will be the most we've ever sent out. No matter how minor the donations, the troops appreciate anything that they receive."