MOUNT VERNON — About 15 veterans shared their experiences serving their country at a Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday at Hillcrest Park Lodge.

Chuck D’Ambrosia of Mount Vernon served in the Navy from 1964-69, and said after only a week in the service, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred, which led to the U.S. becoming more directly engaged in the Vietnam War.

“I thought I joined the peacetime Navy,” he said. “Two years later, I was in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was probably one of the most exciting things I did, and also the most meaningful.”

Navy Cmdr. Bob Hyde (ret.), keynote speaker at the ceremony, said veterans are a shrinking group. Once half the nation’s population, veterans now make up just over 7% of the population, he said.

“This puts veterans in a unique and purposeful place in our democracy,” Hyde said.

Several elected officials attended the ceremony. U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, from the state’s First Congressional District, recalled that on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, she told a veteran “thank you for your service” and he said she was only the second person to thank him.

“It says that we don’t say it enough,” she said. “Sometimes it is said casually, but I want you to know I truly thank you for your service.”

State. Rep. Debra Lekanoff, who represents the 40th District, said that it’s important to teach younger generations the honor of serving their communities. She said her daughter Emma, 15, has learned that.

“(My daughter said) ‘Mom, I think I want to serve my country,’” she said. “’To take care of them like they took care of me.’”

Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau said there is also a need to honor military children, who face separations from their parents. She said the city is working on a program to support those kids.

“They miss their parents and single parents face challenges in explaining that to their children,” she said.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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