Military, first responders, and educators will be recognized for their work at annual event put on by the Community Military Appreciation Committee
VANCOUVER — For 24 years, he served with the United States Navy.
He traveled all over the world for America, and he had his share of close calls in Vietnam.
He was in finance, and then he was in counseling. On ships, he was a lay leader, the person who took care of many of the religious services.
Even after retiring from the Navy in 1977, he has still served.
He had several stops throughout Washington as a drug and alcohol treatment counselor. He was ordained and has earned several degrees, including a doctorate in ministries.
These days, he lives in Vancouver, but serves the veterans community as the chaplain for the Korean War Veterans Association, the local Community Military Appreciation Committee, and next year will be the national chaplain for the prestigious “40 et 8” military organization.
On Saturday, it will be time for the local community to salute retired chief petty officer James Mead and several others at the annual Heroes Night celebration.
The event, which will be held at the East Vancouver Costco (19610 SE 1st Street, Camas), will begin with a flyover from vintage aircraft between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Heroes Night honors military veterans, first responders, and for the first time, educators.
Guests do not need a membership to be in Costco for this event, which will feature door prizes, booths for veterans, and a fundraiser for veterans in need. Guests can also get an up-close look at military vehicles, as well as vehicles from area fire and law enforcement.
A car show begins at 4 p.m. across the street at Northwest Gospel Church.
After the flyover, activities will get going inside Costco around 6 p.m.
All activities, though, are an opportunity to honor the heroes. This is the sixth year of the celebration.
Mead is one of five who will be honored Saturday. All five will have posters which highlight their accomplishments. The others include:
• World War II veteran Carl Lingenfelter, who will celebrate his 100th birthday in July.
• A Vietnam veteran that the committee does not want to name just yet. It is supposed to be a surprise.
• (Posthumously) Richard Alvarez, a Vietnam veteran and longtime commander of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Honor Guard.
• Mick Hoffman, Vancouver Public Schools associate superintendent who is set to become the executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Mead said he appreciates that he will be honored Saturday night. But he said he has mixed feelings.
“I couldn’t believe. I admit I asked, ‘Why me?’ Anybody who goes to war is a hero, but the real heroes, they are the ones who were killed, or the ones who got the Medal of Honor or the Silver Star or the Bronze Star.”
Then again …
“If you join, you are a hero to me,” Mead said. “It’s 1 percent of the population defending the other 99 percent.”
In Vietnam, it was Mead’s job to bring the payroll to the sailors. He was flying all over the country, and more than once he and the crew found fresh bullet holes in their planes or helicopters.
One time, his pilot landed in a minefield. They had to wait for an expert on the ground to walk them out.
“He said, ‘Where I step, you step, and we’ll get out of here.’”
On his very last mission, an engine failed on a two-engine airplane. One young sailor asked Mead if they were going to die.
Nope, he told him. You’re just going to have a great story to tell years later.
They flew 55 miles, very low to the ground, on one engine.
“The Navy was good to me, but I was good to the Navy, too,” Mead said.
These days, he enjoys talking to enlistees and giving them advice.
“Keep a positive attitude in boot camp, and you’ll make it,” he tells them. “Put a smile in your heart. Don’t put a smile on your face. Put a smile in your heart and have a positive attitude, and you’ll make it.”
This year, for the first time, the Community Military Appreciation Committee also wanted to honor educators.
Mick Hoffman has spent 27 years in Clark County as a teacher, a coach, and then an administrator. Earlier this year, it was announced that he will be taking over as the executive director of the WIAA.
He is thankful for the recognition, not for himself, but for the profession. But he wanted to make clear he does not think anything he has done compares to the sacrifices of those in the military.
“It is really cool that they would think about educators and understand the potential impact they can have on youth,” Hoffman said. “It is definitely a different kind of hero.”
Heroes Night will also recognize the Northwest Battle Buddies, trained service dogs helping veterans.