Veteran’s Appreciation Day was held at the General Electric Aviation’s Peebles Test Operation in Peebles last Friday and veterans and their families were invited to a special lunch banquet being held inside one of the many large buildings at the facility, letting attendants dine amongst the massive engines on display. The Scioto Ribber in Portsmouth catered the event, providing plenty of pork chops and chicken.
The attendants included special guest Carl Sininger, who recently went on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. and was featured in The People’s Defender; the Highland County Veterans Honor Guard; the Greenup County High School ROTC Cadets with Captain Dennis Rice; the Honor Flight Tri-State organization; and the featured speaker Lt. Colonel Harold Vance Huston.
Gerald “Buzzard” Wilkin and Harold Hurt of the HCVHG presented the Peebles Test Operation with a plaque, thanking GE for its service and focus on honoring veterans. The Honor Guard consists of veterans who are members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Amvets, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans. The HCVHG assists with the funeral services of veterans, firing the 21-gun salute, posting the American flag, playing “Taps,” and folding the American flag before presenting it to the family. The organization also attends parades, festivals, and banquets.
Honor Flight Tri-State gave a presentation informing those present of the mission of the organization. The nationwide Honor Flight organization has flown over 100,000 World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington D.C. thus far.
The highlight of the dinner was the featured speaker, Lt. Colonel Harrold Vance Huston. He has been deployed to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and piloted Marine One under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. Huston also started the ROTC Cadet program at the Greenup County High School in Kentucky.
Huston spoke on the fact that freedom isn’t free and a price must be paid. To emphasize this point he related the stories of five men he served with who died during the Vietnam War: William Tebow, William Goodsell, Ralph Dryden, Luther Lono, and Ralph Caspole.
William Tebow was a fellow Captain in the Vietnam War. One of the pilots under his command was having trouble returning to base, so Tebow flew out to serve as his wingman to hep him get home. As they approached a mountain, Tebow stayed at the man’s wing, guiding him higher so he could make it over the mountain. The pilot managed to get just barely over the mountain however, Tebow’s position at the man’s wing meant he flew into the mountain.
William Goodsell lost his life when he refused to send one of those under his command on an extremely dangerous mission. Instead, he personally flew the mission.
Ralph Caspole was also a former pilot of Marine One. Huston flew Caspole to his wedding, landing in a ball field in the small town where the wedding was held. Caspole went to Vietnam a few months later. On his last mission before he was to return home, the incendiary bomb he was carrying was struck and exploded.
Huston had pictures displayed on the screen behind him. A pencil rubbing of each of the men’s names from the Vietnam Memorial as displayed, as he shared these stories. Huston also had images from a visit to Normandy Beach, showing everyone the numerous grave markers present.
After the presentation, the Master of Ceremonies Kevin Zornes, the Greenup County High School ROTC Cadets, and the GE employees that are veterans presented a display to Lt. Colonel Huston that had a flag that had been flown for one day at GE before being folded and sealed into the display.
The combination of military pageantry, the personal anecdotes from the veterans, and the stories of the heroism of those who had died at war made the event a memorable one.
Paul Hannah can be reached at (937) 544-2391.