The veterans who attended the Methow Valley Senior Citizens Association’s annual Veterans Day lunch Thursday (Nov. 11) served as infantry and medics, in deserts and underwater in conflicts stretching as far back as the Pacific Theater of World War II and as recent as the Iraq War.
But many described their fellow veterans the same way — as family.
The event took place at the Methow Valley Community Center, with a presentation at 11 a.m. and lunch at noon. Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow acted as the event’s emcee. The Twisp American Legion Auxiliary served as the color guard and offered a prayer and a reading from the Bible.
Keith Morden, commander of the Twisp American legion post, spoke briefly, and urged young people to join the American Legion to get help themselves when they’re going through hard times, and to help other veterans in the area.
“We need your help,” he said. “The more members we have, the better we can represent all of you.”
Budrow called attention to the youngest veteran in the room — Twisp Police Officer Steve Purtell, who was in the Army from 2009 to 2015 and in the Army Reserves after that until 2018. While the Methow is certainly home to more veterans of that generation, Purtell and Budrow noted they aren’t seen as often at Veterans Day events. The American Legion is always eager to recruit younger members.
“I know there’s more out there in the valley,” Purtell said, of younger veterans like himself, but said that generation is more used to connecting over the internet and their phones than face to face. Purtell served in Army infantry in the Iraq War.
Before lunch, attendees passed a microphone around to introduce themselves and talk about their service.
Vern Herrst served as a Navy hospital corpsman from 1969 to 1990. Of his long career, he explained that he came from a culture that prioritized service. He said he is one of four boys in his family to go into the military.
“There’s an age group where it’s the thing to do for your country, and now that’s changed a lot,” he said.
Another Navy vet, Don LeMaster, served on submarines from 1967 to 1972 on “deterrent” patrols.
“There were some exciting times,” he said.
LeMaster’s friend Don Wallis flew in the Air Force on an F8 Crusader.
“He went a lot faster than I did,” LeMaster said.
John Hurley, now a physician’s assistant in family practice care at Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster, served in the Middle East in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Hurley said he attends events like Thursday’s partly to network — letting veterans know he’s able to provide primary care service covered by Veterans Affairs benefits. The nearest VA clinic is in Wenatchee, and the drive can be a hardship, especially for elderly veterans.
“For people that gave as much as they gave, as much as we gave, they deserve better,” he said.