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Veterans, dignitaries share stories at American Legion event

In thanking fellow veterans for their service in the U.S. military on Veterans Day, John J. Leeper made a point to include families who provide a behind-the-scenes support system for soldiers who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom.

“There’s one additional group, and that’s the wives, the children, the parents, the brothers and sisters who act in service to their country,” he said. “Those are the ones keeping the home fires burning to assure that our country keeps going. They are very close, in my heart, to also being veterans.”

Leeper, a retired U.S. Army colonel and member of Beaverton’s American Legion Post 124, spoke at the post’s annual Veterans Day program held at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ on Southwest Watson Avenue. Hosted by Post 124 Commander Marv Doty, the event featured many area veterans as well as local dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Beaverton City Councilor-elect Lacey Beaty.

Musical performances were provided by the Southridge High School A Capella Choir, which performed a moving version of “Danny Boy,” as well as soprano vocalist Anna Kazakova accompanied by master pianist Anne Young, pianist Lloyd Ferrell and bugler Scott Woods.

Beaty, who moved to Oregon in 2008 after serving four years in the U.S. Army in Germany and Iraq, spoke of her experiences as a female soldier as well as her husband Ian, who is now serving in Afghanistan.

“An e-mail from Ian early this morning said to let the community know that the troopers of 1-82 CAV are doing well in Afghanistan, protecting freedom on this Veterans Day,” she said.

Beaty went on to speak on issues related to female soldiers, including the need for appropriate body armor and equipment and the increasing awareness of sexual assault in the military.

A change in war tactics after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “launched women from behind the scenes to the middle of the battlefields,” she said. “Though the roles of women in the military have changed the military still lags in basic care for women ... Even though the basic needs are not met, women still raise their hands and volunteer because we know the risk is worth the reward of freedom.”

After reading a city of Beaverton proclamation recognizing the significance of Veterans Day to the community, Doyle emphasized the correlation between veterans’ sacrifices with freedom and justice.

“One week after our national election, you know the price you paid to vote without fear,” he said. “Let’s rally around (our veterans).”

American Legion District 1 Commander Thomas Harris furthered that sentiment, noting the benefits of the organization to soldiers’ and veterans’ families.

“Veterans need each other, but more importantly, our country needs our veterans,” he said, encouraging the public to support veterans as well as groups dedicated to assisting them. “We need to support veterans here, our troops abroad and their families here. There is help out there for you.”

Doug Menke, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District general manager, said in addition to supporting the district’s “great partnership” with Post 124, he attended the event to remember how both his parents served their country, his late father as a sergeant during World War II and his mother as a Red Cross ambulance driver.

“Honoring our men and women of the military is our responsibility,” he said. “It’s important to ensure (that people from) all generations take time to really honor our veterans.”

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