Service and sacrifice

This is an early edition of the blog since tomorrow is Veterans Day. I had the honor of speaking at the Puyallup American Legion’s annual Veterans Day event last weekend and I’d like to share a portion of my remarks that day with you.

Back on September 2nd, I attended the opening ceremonies of the 43rd Annual Puyallup Tribe of Indians Pow Wow.  The Pow Wow is an amazing celebration of Native culture.  Nearly 100 dance groups and drummers from tribes across the country assembled to preserve and elevate their heritage.

The Pow Wow begins with a processional to welcome every dance group.  As they enter the huge event tent, they dance in a circle, coiling like a snake, until everyone is dancing together.  However, leading the procession was a color guard of veterans followed by even more veterans – and not just tribal veterans.  I was asked to walk with them, not as the Pierce County Executive, but due to my service in the Navy.  Those who had served were in a position of extreme honor – even ahead of the Tribal Council. It was remarkable and humbling to stand in the middle of the huge arena as group after group of dancers wound around the vets, encircling us with gratitude and appreciation. What a powerful experience!

One of the amazing things about this honor was it wasn’t linked to Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It was as if every day is – or should be – a day to remember and honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

We live in a community that includes some 90,000 veterans.  In addition, 11% of the Pierce County workforce are veterans who have faithfully taken on the burden and privilege of wearing the uniform.

Think about what it means to give up most of your personal freedoms. When you enter the military you commit to the selfless concept that the mission is more important than your unit and your unit is more important than you.

Serving and sacrificing means you miss many holidays, and you frequently uproot your family and move to meet the “needs of the Navy” (substitute, Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force!). At the same time, parents, spouses, and children are left behind, praying for your safe return. And, tragically, some never return home.

Those that do return home from combat bring a host of wounds with them – some are physical, and some are wounds to their soul. These sacrifices last long after a uniform is hung up for good.

It’s estimated that some 8,000 veterans in our community live below the poverty level and up to 300 are homeless. As a society, I believe no one who has served should live without a roof over their head.

That’s where our Veterans Resource Center comes in. Thanks to the work of Robert Sheetz and his team, the Center partners with federal, state, non-profit and local agencies to support veterans and their families.  They help them apply for veteran benefits, housing, employment, financial security, and behavioral healthcare. The Veterans Resource Center was created to serve as the one-stop shop for veterans and their families to access resources and assistance.

You can learn more about the Veterans Resource Center and the many ways they support our veterans in this video.

And remember Daeveene May from last week’s blog recognizing Standing Ovation Award honorees?  Daeveene is part of our Transportation team in Community Services and he set up a transportation network to support formerly homeless veterans who live in the Orting Soldiers’ Home and Veterans’ Village!

I am very proud that we are a community that honors and remembers those who served and sacrificed for our country.  I hope you will join me in thanking them on Veterans Day – and every day.

If you’re veteran, be sure to check out this list that details the many discounts and freebies available to you on Veterans Day!  And be sure to check out our annual online tribute to our veteran employees here.

Thanks for reading,