WARRENTON Jim Rankin and Missy Johnson have a mission. These two Marine Corps veterans want to see that no local veterans go unnoticed or unappreciated for their service to the country.
Unlike the reception men and women returning from Vietnam faced more than 40 years ago, Rankin and Johnson believe that every veteran deserves recognition by his or her community. One result of this commitment was the annual Welcome Home Veterans and Military Appreciation Day held in the Lums Auto Center showroom in Warrenton Saturday.
Rankin, a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, saw action in Vietnam. Johnson also in the Corps, is now on the staff at Astoria High School.
The purpose of todays gathering is not just to welcome home vets, but also to honor active duty service men and women and the National Guard, said Rankin.
When I came home, there was no welcome. We just forgot all about it and went back to work. It was a missed opportunity that I didnt want to see happen to our vets of today. We wanted to make sure our community takes the time to say thank you for their service, he said.
Several veterans from World War II up through the Vietnam War were recognized with special certificates given to them by local officials. Rankin also told the audience of around 250 people about their exploits on and off the battlefield.
I never expected to see this. Its wonderful; its great, said Elmer Miller, a Korean War vet from Astoria.
Of special interest to everyone who attended were veterans Bill Wuorinen, who recently received a Silver Star from the Army, 60 years after he saved the life of Col. Harvey Clarke in a horrific Korean battle where only 15 of his company survived. Wuorinen almost didnt make it to the celebration at Lums, however.
Bill just got out of the hospital and he wanted to come here, and the hospital said, Bill, you shouldnt be going down there because you just broke your hip. And he protested, so they said, OK, on one condition. Were sending our nurse down with you, Rankin told the audience gathered in the showroom.
Another Bill was also honored for his service as a seaman in World War II. Bill Thomas served on the repair ship Medusa. He is one of the few Pearl Harbor survivors remaining in the United States. He lives in Seaside and was presented an award by Seaside Mayor Don Larson.
Its always a pleasure to see Bill walking the streets of Seaside at his age. Seaside is extremely proud of Bill for exceptional service to our country and to our community. We love him and respect him as a man who defended our country, said Larson.
David Lum provided the venue and the lunch for the gathering of veterans and their supporters. The Lums showroom was packed with people in uniform, and others wanting to meet real-life heroes.
It is really a privilege to provide a nice setting for this gathering. When I hear these stories, it brings tears to my eyes, said Lum.
Right now our country is at loose ends, but this is the United States of America and all these guys made it possible for us to be here right now, he said.
Sen. Betsy Johnson honored Juanita Price, one of several women veterans from World War II who attended.
Women served in so many incredible ways, Johnson said. Juanita was one of the first people I met when I had the privilege to become a state representative in this area before I moved to the Senate. Juanita is a vigorous observer of the political process. She is down at the capitol all the time. Im in constant contact with her on issues that are especially important.
Price served in the Marine Corps Womens reserve in Quantico, Va., from 1944 through 1946. She was the quartermaster for the photography lab on the base and insured that the lab was equipped to carry out its wartime functions. Following the war, she became a photographer and reporter and eventually settled in the Astoria area, teaching at Astoria High School. Her last job was as librarian for the Astoria Library.
People need to realize how many veterans there are in this area, said Leroy Dunn, a veteran who was honored Saturday for his service in Korea. Dunn, a longtime bus driver for the Warrenton School District, was a chemical war specialist in the war, and later a drill sergeant for 20 years.
Being a drill sergeant was in my heart, Dunn said. Ive been to this gathering the past few years and I think it is amazing.
For the first time this year, the flags of all the services Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marines and Air Force were presented by women veterans who represented a variety of services and wartime experiences.
I was especially pleased to see a female honor guard this morning, said Sen. Johnson, who was presented an award herself for her work in promoting veterans issues in her district.
Astoria High School Senior Julietta ManDujano attended the celebration of veterans, promoting her senior project that honors the soldiers in Afghanistan by sending them specially prepared packages from home.
I wanted to do something for the troops in Afghanistan, to give back to them for what they have done for our country. I thought this was a good way to say thank you to them for all they have done, she said.