Veterans honored, emotions confronted |

Veterans honored, emotions confronted

A sign hanging in the hallway of the Legion Hall on Highway 50 said it all: “Thank you for serving our country and protecting us.”

Written by Kris Hakanson’s third-grade class at Bijou Community School, the message showed that veterans didn’t have to go far to get support and have a moving experience Monday.

That experience was realized by people like Jim Hoggatt this Veterans Day.

The South Lake Tahoe man came out for the American Legion Post 795 ceremony to honor those who have served our nation in the armed forces.

Hoggatt, a 55-year-old who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, said he wanted to be around other veterans for the national holiday to feel a sense of resolve.

“It’s always a solemn occasion,” he said. “Any veteran of any war has to make peace within himself.”

He did so with his visit to the 20-year-old Vietnam War Memorial, known as “The Wall.” The mobile version of the memorial traveled to Reno last weekend.

“It was the most peaceful thing I’ve ever done,” he said of the Washington, D.C., visit.

Hoggatt equated the experience to dealing with grief — in that healing occurs by confronting the emotions head-on.

There wasn’t a shortage of emotion Monday morning, with both tears and cheers manifest among the few hundred people attending the Veterans Day ceremony when Margo Osti churned out an angelic singing performance and post Cmdr. Curt Emrie defined a veteran.

He described a veteran as the cop on the beat in Saudi Arabia, a sobbing nurse witnessing atrocities in Da Nang, Vietnam, and the prisoner of war who “went away one person and came back another.”

Whatever the circumstance, Emrie described veterans as ordinary and extraordinary human beings.

“We will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude we owe (them),” he said. “On this day, we commemorate veterans of all wars.”

Beyond the ceremony’s standard pomp and circumstance, VFW Vice Chairman Jason Digiulio said he tossed out his canned speech to speak from the heart over the differences between Memorial and Veterans holidays.

“I personally feel Veterans Day falling in November before Thanksgiving is special for me because I remember the vets still with us,” said Digiulio, who went to the Gulf War. “It’s a great time to be an American in this country, but when has it not been a great time to be an American in this country?”

This year’s event took on some new twists that tested the knowledge of those in attendance.

Osti led the group in the anthems of each of the armed forces, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s ballad.

In between the songs, the history of the military branches was given.

For example, the Coast Guard was highlighted as a branch that has served in every American war.

But its everyday bravery is demonstrated on the high seas — with the service rescuing 5,000 people each year.

The Army was better known as the branch that forged an assault on the battered shores of Normandy during D-Day.

As for other historic battles, the Marine Corps led a World War II victory at Iwo Jima, a battle made famous by the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

The armed forces offer peace-keeping functions, too.

The Air Force moved more than 2 million pounds of relief supplies to flood victims in Mozambique and South Africa.

The Navy has carried out similar missions, carrying food and medical supplies to disaster areas around the globe.

Aside from its participation dating back to the Revolutionary War, the Navy has the historic distinction of keeping notable company — including U.S. presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush, Osti reminded those present.

She also used the words of President John F. Kennedy as a Navy man.

“Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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