ARLINGTON — The scene downtown Tuesday was repeated throughout small-town America on Veterans Day.
Roughly 300 people lined both sides of Olympic Avenue to clap while the town’s veterans filed by. The Arlington High School Band played "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful," closing with a trumpet solo of taps.
"It’s nice to acknowledge those people, because they went through holy hell," said Ken Casperson, an Arlington member of the Bothell-based Puget Sound Military Vehicle Collectors Club, which drove vintage military jeeps, trucks and scout cars in the parade.
Like many places, the public celebration here is a familiar ritual that has been carried out in Arlington for roughly 50 years, said Jim Barron, commander of Arlington’s American Legion Post 76.
But after the public heads home, a more private ritual for the veterans begins as many of them convene at their local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars halls.
The American Legion has at least seven halls in Snohomish County and vicinity, plus a few VFW halls.
Arlington’s Legion is headquartered on Olympic Avenue, right at the end of the parade route. The hall features a dimly lit lounge with a bar and several tables. A few have bright lights hanging over them, as does the pool table near the front.
Mary Fikes, the post’s former commander, said she feels a sense of security and peace when she walks through the door.
"It’s a home to come to," Fikes said. "It’s a sanctuary in a way."
Post commander Jim Barron agreed.
"It brings all vets together," Barron said. "It’s a camaraderie."
Indeed, the clack of balls at the pool table came from a game that united vets from different generations. Retired Navy Seabee Donald Becktell, commander of Arlington’s VFW Post 1561, was taking on Petty Officer 3rd Class Larry DeCandia of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
"We get to visit with people we haven’t seen for a while," Barron said. "A lot don’t come to the lounge very often. A lot aren’t even members of our post."
After each parade, the post’s auxiliary club — usually wives of veterans — prepares a meal and invites all vets to join in. Before Tuesday’s meal, the Arlington vets took a moment, as they always do, to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action by leaving a table space empty and lighting a candle.
"We do make everybody remember, we just mustn’t forget the POW/MIAs," Barron said.
Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or email@example.com.