John and Jill Phillips are retired Army veterans who will spend the upcoming Veterans Day at home watching various parades and ceremonies on television.
"We don't do much on Veterans Day usually," said Jill Phillips who retired in 2005 after spending 27 years as a nurse practitioner in the Army Nursing Corps. "We did go to a very nice dinner at McCormick & Schmick's two nights ago that was free for all the local veterans," she said. She added that they typically have their Thanksgiving dinners at Walter Reed Medical Center's banquet hall. "Everyone dresses up in the dress blues with the shiny brass and everything."
While the Phillips family enjoys a quiet day at home, Cabin John resident Danny Harris will line McArthur Boulevard from Persimmon Tree Road to the Union Arch Bridge with American flags as he does each Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
He will be getting plenty of help from his wife Margaret as well as from Burr Gray, president of the Cabin John Citizens Association, because as Harris, 81, says, "at my age it isn't easy to get up and down that ladder with a flag in my hands."
Former Potomac resident Matt Donellan is a veteran of the 101st Army Airborne Division who just returned from his second tour in Iraq working in satellite communications, according to his mother Victoria Donellan, who lives in Potomac. "I think it's really important what he did, especially since so few people from around here join the military because it's such an affluent area," Victoria Donellan said. She will spend this Veterans Day on the Mall for the activities taking place there, just as she did while her son was away.
In addition to the comrades and colleagues that veterans make during their days of service, the military is often a family affair as well.
Harris followed his two older brothers into the Navy, signing up in 1943 as soon as he turned 18. The older brothers were chiefs on the USS Melville, a maintenance ship that occasionally traveled across the Atlantic in the same convoys as Harris' destroyer the USS Winslow. "I didn't get to see them all the time but I did get to see them a little bit, even one time over in England."
John and Jill Phillips met while stationed in San Francisco during their time in the army.
"It was a blind date set up by my boss's boss," John Phillips said, "so I had to follow orders." They married six weeks later.
Although Matt Donellan has returned stateside he will not be returning to Potomac. Just before he headed back to Iraq last summer he married a woman in Ft. Campbell, Kenturcky, where the 101st is stationed, and now is settling into life as a husband and stepfather. He is also working toward completing his bachelor's degree in engineering. "These young guys, when they go off to war they change," said Mrs. Donellan. "They grow up so quickly."
As Veterans Day approaches, memories and emotions are stirred. “We are very proud to have served our country in the military,” Jill Phillips said of herself and her husband. “It has instilled pride and a sense of civic duty in ourselves and in our children and we just think it's important for people to serve their country at least in some way.”
Danny Harris echoed similar sentiments. "I love this country and I love the flag and that's what we fought for."