94-year-old WWII vet shares message at Tahoma National Cemetery celebration

KENT, Wash. -- Once a year we take a day to say thank you. Thank you to the men, women, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who served our country. We thank those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms.

Tahoma National Cemetery held its annual celebration to honor area veterans.

Friday’s focus was on all veterans, but it made a special attempt honor those who served in World War II.

Donald Hanson will tell you, he’s not used to big crowds. He grew up on a farm in Minnesota.

And he enlisted in the Navy as a young man.

“January 24th of 1941, one year before Pearl Harbor,” said Hanson, a 94-year-old Navy veteran.

On Veterans Day, Hanson didn’t talk about his time on the battleship USS Idaho, or the 192 days he spent serving in the North Atlantic. He spent the morning chatting with the newest generation of Navy sailors, giving them one simple message.

“I’m going to be gone. You fellows are our people of our future of our country,” said Hanson.

The Richstad family also shared a message with their youngest daughter Leila that day. It was the first time she’s been to her grandfather’s grave.

“Just a compassionate man with a huge loving heart and so it’s no wonder he wanted to have a life of service,” said mom Sarah Richstad.

While Friday is set aside to thank a vet, it’s also a good time to learn something from them, too.

“This is where we honor heroes and loved ones who were very passionate about our country and fought to keep others safe and stand up for injustice and that’s the message we want to share to her to make sure she learns that and can do the same in her life,” said Richstad.

Hanson has a few words of wisdom he’d like to pass on.

“I care about people. I care about young people,” said Hanson.

He wants everyone to know they can make a difference in this world.

“And what you make it is what it’ll become. That’s important,” said Hanson.

Simple but powerful words from someone who’s seen a thing or two.