Local Kitsap County organizations work together every year to host what they describe as the largest Veterans Day program in the state of Washington.
The free event takes place Monday in the Pavilion at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and over 1,800 people are expected to attend.
Doors open at 9 a.m. so that visitors can view the many displays and visit the 24 booths. Vintage military uniforms and vehicles will be on display.
Tom Danaher, a pubic affairs officer at Naval Base Kitsap, said that no events or activities are slated to take place on base, as the day is for veterans, not active-duty members of the military.
“But you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be (at the Pavilion),” said Danaher, a former Navy surface warfare officer who served for 30 years.
Danaher, who has served on the event’s planning committee in past years, was quick to single out former Navy Captains Earl and Sandra Smith, of the lead sponsoring Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Navy League, for their tireless years of effort to make the event so successful.
“What will we do when they decide they won’t do this anymore?” Danaher asked. “They’re irreplaceable.”
Sandra Smith served for 27 years and Earl Smith served for 35 years.
“We’re both Vietnam veterans,” Mrs. Smith said. “We didn’t exactly get the welcome home that people are getting now. So, we want to make sure people are getting the recognition they deserve.”
The actual program begins at 10:30 a.m. with pomp and circumstance of a very formal Parade of Colors. Rear Admiral Dietrich Kuhlmann, Commander, Submarine Group Nine and Guy Stitt, Bremerton Navy League Ambassador will welcome everyone.
Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown will introduce all of the Military and political dignitaries. The Bremerton High School Marching Band will provide the music.
This year, the keynote speaker is Lourdes E. Alvarado-Ramos, Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos joined WDVA in 1993 and was appointed Deputy Director in 2005.
She has a unique understanding of the agency, having led the Veterans Services Division and each of the State Veterans Homes as Superintendent.
Alvarado-Ramos served 22 years on active duty, retiring in August 1993 as Command Sergeant Major and Troop Command Sergeant Major of Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington.
During her military career, she was the recipient of numerous awards and decorations to include the Legion of Merit, Order of Military Medical Merit, Expert Field Medical Badge and Meritorious Service Medals.
U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer is expected to be on hand and will speak.
There will also be a short memorial to WWII Medal of Honor recipient John D. Bud Hawks, who passed away Tuesday, organizers said this week.
A tribute service will be at 3 p.m. at the Kitsap Pavilion at the Kitsap Fairgrounds following the veterans ceremony.
The Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council of Navy League provides the coordination and funds for this memorable event along with 42 other organizations. Crazy Eric’s Drive-In will be providing free refreshments following the program. Costco will provide free cake.