Medal of Honor recipient will highlight Federal Way's Veterans Day celebration

For Diane Noble-Gulliford, having a momentous Veterans Day observation in Federal Way is about building community. She’s the past president of the Historical Society of Federal Way and sees community events like Buds and Blooms and the July 4 Red, White and Blues Festival as important pieces of Federal Way’s foundation.

Any Veterans Day event that recognizes the accomplishments, sacrifices and amazing stories of military veterans can only strengthen that foundation.

“It’s part of maturing as a community,” she says. “I think this is laying a foundation.”

This year, the historical society has teamed up with the Noon Kiwanis Club of Federal Way to put on the first of what is hoped to be a regionally recognized, Federal Way-branded Veterans Day celebration.

The historical society has for at least five years held a Veterans Day observation on its own, but the hope is that this year’s partnership with Kiwanis will help the event reach a larger audience.

“The whole idea is to make it a community event and have it grow,” said David Larson, who chaired the Kiwanis committee that helped plan the observance.

Dubbed “Honoring Our Own,” the highlight of this year’s Veterans Day observance is an appearance and speech by Medal of Honor recipient Col. Joe Jackson, who lives in the Federal Way School District. Jackson, 87, was a pilot in Vietnam and was awarded the medal after he rescued three Air Force personnel from a military camp under intense fire.

The observance will take place 1 p.m. Nov. 13 at Todd Beamer High School. Organizers are asking anyone planning to attend to bring a relative or friend who has served in the military.

There’s a lot more planned: Federal Way School District Superintendent Robert Neu will present “thank you” letters written by students to members of the 81st Heavy Combat Brigade and the 3rd Stryker Brigade, both of which served in Iraq. The Todd Beamer Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will give presentations on flag folding and troops taken prisoner or reported missing in action. A military brass quintet will provide music, and Boy Scout Troop 342 will play “Taps.”

In the region, Auburn and Kent have traditionally held large Veterans Day observances. But it’s important that Federal Way match those communities because a large number of active and retired veterans live in the city, and younger generations need to be educated about their sacrifices and triumphs, organizers say.

There’s even talk of erecting a monument for veterans. Larson said that the Kiwanis have been discussing building a monument, wanting to emulate memorial similar one found in Milton. A place for the monument has not been decided — although locations like Celebration Park, Federal Way Memorial Field and Steel Lake were mentioned. Larson said it should be “visible and central.”

Larson, Noble-Gulliford and historical society vice president Maureen Hathaway are excited about the event and eager to get the word out. The focus is on veterans and their service, but the organizers promise an educational and honorific event.

“It starts small, but it’ll grow big,” Larson said, looking forward to honoring Veterans Day in the future.

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