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Vets, kids get together on Thursday

Veterans Day ceremonies take place Thursday at two schools in The Dalles and community members are invited to attend.

The event to honor those who have served begins about 9 a.m. at The Dalles Middle School, 1100 East 12th Street, when an H60 Coast Guard helicopter from Astoria lands on the football field. Also on scene will be a 40-foot utility boat.

The equipment is all used for search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, military readiness and marine environmental protection missions.

“We invite the community to come to the site and welcome them,” said Larry Fairclo, a retired teacher who started the Veterans Day program 25 years ago.

He said all branches of the service will be honored even though the 2017 event focuses heavily on the role of the U.S. Coast Guard, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime. It can be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Navy by the president at any time, or by Congress during times of war.

As one of the country's five armed services, the Coast Guard has been involved in every U.S. war from 1790 to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“The program is open to veterans of all wars and their families,” said Fairclo.

Dustin Harger, an aviation maintenance technician from the Coast Guard, will be one of two keynote speakers at the middle school program, which begins at 10 a.m.

Also taking the podium will be Duane Reeder, 91, who served as an anti-aircraft gunner on the USS North Carolina during World War II.

The band will perform at the event.

“I started these assemblies to provide some education to the students when they couldn’t tell me what Veterans Day was all about,” said Fairclo. “This has been a wonderful way for them to learn what it’s all about.”

He said students and staffers at the middle school benefit greatly from being able to interact with veterans and learn the true meaning of sacrifice.

The Veterans Day program at the high school, 220 East 10th Street, starts at 11:52 a.m. in the auditorium and lasts until 12:30 p.m.

Air Force Sgt. Ralph Penasf is the speaker and the band will play the National Anthem.

The Associated Student Body and Leadership Class has organized the event, which includes a moment of silence to remember veterans who have fallen in battle and Taps to end the program.

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