Record crowd turns out to show appreciation for local vets –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Veterans and residents from across Adams County gathered on Saturday, Nov. 11 to celebrate Veterans Day with a parade and ceremony held at Courthouse Square in West Union.
Spectators cheered on members of Seaman’s American Legion Post 633 as they led local vets, representing every branch of military service, down Main Street, their parade flags waving in the cold November air.
The Adams County Liberty Band, the oldest of its kind in the state of Ohio, housed in the county’s new gazebo on the Courthouse lawn, proved the acoustic worth of the structure and their own skill by flawlessly performing patriotic melodies, despite the stinging cold weather.
In the midst of the marchers, a riderless horse reminded the crowd that freedom is often won at a terrible cost.
“We had the riderless horse to signify those who did not return,” said Commissioner Diane Ward, one of the event volunteers.
Ward says she volunteered to help the local Veterans Service Commission (ACVSC) members who planned the event because she wanted to honor the memory of her late father, Ralph Fannin, and her late father-in-law, Earnel Ward, both whom were veterans of World War II.
“It was an honor to help them,” she said of the time she spent volunteering and working with ACVSC president Bill Conn, and board members Marvin Greene, Jerry Naylor, Gerry Mitchell, Dean Collins, and ACVSC employee Russ Todd. “They did a wonderful job bringing the program together.”
According to Conn, the Commission began planning for the event in mid-summer.
“We called all the local Commanders at all the local American Legions, and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), and the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) chapters in the county for a meeting in July,” Conn said. “We asked the chapters to work together because none of our organizations have enough members o do it alone, we asked them to go back to their home towns and encourage others to participate in the program.”
The group met again in early September and Conn says the event was “starting to look like a program, so we put a program together.”
“It was a combined effort – the Legion Commanders, the VFW and DAV chapters all worked together to make this program happen,” he says. “It’s an all-county event, and hopefully, next year, it will be bigger and better than the Fourth of July.”
Following the parade, veterans holding flags lined the broad sidewalk leading up to the Courthouse entrance. A massive American flag hanging from a balcony on the building’s second floor waved above the speaker’s podium where several people addressed the crowd gathered on the courthouse lawn.
The keynote speaker for the event was Adams County Prosecutor, David Kelley, a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves with 33 years of service.
Kelley spoke about the number of casualties from American wars, and the disproportionately small number of people who are serving, in comparison to the country’s present-day population of 300 million.
“At the end of World War II there were 12 million people in active military service in a country of only 130 million people,” Kelley told those gathered. “That’s 10 percent of the population in 1945, today less than one percent of the population is serving in our military.”
Kelley, like Thomas Jefferson, believes “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.
“We can’t let our guard down,” he says. “And part of that is acknowledging that less than ½ of 1 percent of our population defends 323 million people – I know we have new technology, but still, that is an astoundingly small number.”
With 33 years of military service under his belt, Kelley understands how important civilian support is to soldiers in active service.
“I like to think that anybody who comes out on a cold morning, or anybody that takes the time to send a small care package, anybody that says ‘thank you’ when they see someone in a uniform – they should know, it’s appreciated.”
Ward, who worries that respect for veterans is waning, reflected on her own father’s experience during World War II.
“I know what my father went through in the war,” she says. “He was in France, Luxembourg, and Germany, he lost his unit twice, he lost his best friend, he crossed the River Moselle into Germany with 300 men during the Lorraine Campaign in 1944, and only 30 of them made it out alive.”
Ward’s father’s perilous journey across the battlefields of Europe, she says provides a valuable life lesson about appreciation.
“That kind of sacrifice merits our attention, and our thanks,” she says. “It’s the least we can do.”