The Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis will this weekend continue a tradition it’s maintained since its inception when it hosts the 21st annual dinner in honor of WWII veterans.
The event will kick off 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the museum and will feature Desmond Doss Jr. — son of WWII hero Desmond Doss, the only conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Doss was the subject of the Mel Gibson-directed war film “Hacksaw Ridge.”
“His son has been carrying on the legacy of telling his dad’s story to crowds in the last couple years,” said Chip Duncan, the museum’s director.
Each year, a contingent of WWII vets attend. Last year, there were 18, but Duncan noted they represent a generation that’s shrinking. All of them would be in their 90s, he said.
“I always encourage people to come out. They’re going to be sitting amongst WWII veterans — it’s a generation that’s going away rapidly, and this event is open to anybody. So you don’t have to have a relative that was a WWII veteran to be a part of it,” he said.
The event has been around since 1997. Each year the Napavine High School Jazz Band plays music from the 1940s and 50s — something of a generational mood-setter — while those in attendance eat a catered dinner. In years past, Duncan said, the veterans would often dance with their spouses while the music played. But, that’s a tradition that advanced age has made unlikely.
After the meal and music, Doss will talk about his father’s service, and the events that cemented his hero status. Doss served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII, and saved many lives during the Battle of Okinawa. As a conscientious objector, he refused to carry a gun and was a medic, tending to the wounded in the heat of battle. Doss will also talk about growing up the son of a war hero. Doss Sr. passed away in 2006.
Each of the WWII vets will be honored after Doss’ talk.
Tickets cost $30 per person. There are 130 tickets total, and Duncan said about half have been sold already. Stop by the museum, located at 100 SW Veterans Way, Chehalis, or call 360-740-8875 to reserve tickets.
“Even after all the WWII veterans are gone, we will still have this event to commemorate their memory and service and sacrifice. That’s been something that we’ve been doing since our very first year of operation and we’ll continue to do it. That’s all there is to it. Even if it’s just honoring the sons and daughters of the WWII generation,” said Duncan.