Photo credit: Teagan Levine
By Brock Hires
Okanogan Living Veterans, local residents and public officials gathered Saturday afternoon for the dedication of designating state Highway 20 in Okanogan County as the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.”
“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Arnie (Marchand) and all of his colleagues,” said Roy Jennings, chairman of the state Department of Transportation Commission. “Because of their hard work, this naming will make sure that all Vietnam veterans will know that they — and their service — will never be forgotten.”
The commission took action on the proposal earlier this year after members of Oroville and Tonasket American Legions gathered more than 300 signatures for the project.
Marchand — who is chairman of the Oroville Planning Commission and a local author and historian — said the idea to rename the highway began with a conversation between himself and Louie Wilson more than a year ago. Since then, they have written letters to public officials, local newspapers and made numerous phone calls to make their dream a reality.
“I love the fact that a number of people showed up,” Marchand said shortly after the ceremony. “The people like (Congressman) Dan Newhouse, (Rep. Jacquelin) Maycumber, (Rep. Joel) Kretz and (Sen. Shelly) Short, and the county commissioners — they all supported this strongly.”
The ceremony included members of the Colville Confederated Tribe's honor guard presenting colors, and an honor song performed by The Citizens, a group of tribal singers.
The event saw several dignitaries including Rep. Maycumber, Okanogan County Commissioner Jon Neal, Okanogan County Sheriff Paul Budrow, a representative from Rep. Newhouse’s office, along with local city leaders and members of other community organizations.
During the ceremony, Jennings spoke at length about the sacrifices men and woman of the armed forces make. At one point he asked the audience to recall back to the 60s and early 70s.
“Most civilians frowned upon the military,” he said. “Civilians in general did not have anything good to say about the military.”
Jennings said many Vietnam veterans were looked down upon and treated like “dirt.”
“I’ve been told by a few Vietnam veterans that it would have been better for them if they told people that they just got back from prison rather than returning from Vietnam,” he said. “Wow. I can’t even imagine that.”
Jennings, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corp in 1997, thanked fellow veterans for their service.
“We are all brothers and sisters,” he said. “We all have an appreciation for our fellow brothers and sisters. Without any service, without us working together, this great country of ours would have a different history.
“By naming this part of SR 20 the ‘Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway,’ it’s my hope when people are driving down this highway, they will remember the sacrifices these veterans made so long ago in service to our country,” Jennings said. “Arnie, I would like to personally thank you (for the) many, many, many months (of) putting together this highway naming proposal. ♦
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