SMITHFIELD - Cold weather sent the Jefferson County Veterans Association program, honoring all veterans in what was once called Armistice Day, into the Friendship Park restaurant facility rather than at the Fort Friendship Memorial. But the gathering of military from all branches of service and starting with World War II veterans made the event quite warm and touching.
Included in the group were Jim McLain, a Marine with the 5th division in Iwo Jima; Wilbert Irwin, Art Malin and Calvin Maley, World War II veterans; Bill Duvall, Korean veteran; and Larry Yanda, Viet Nam War veteran.
Fred McGee, a Smithfield American Legion member and Korean War veteran of 17th Infantry King Company, received a Purple Heart and Silver Star in 1952. He was named to the Ohio Hall of Fame for Valor and invited to appear in the Hall of Fame parade in Columbus. He was also the grand marshal for the Elm Grove Run Walk event recently.
VETERANS MEET — The Jefferson County Veterans Association program to honor all military on Veterans Day was held at Friendship Park. Veterans from different wars were present, including, from left, seated, Wilbert Irwin, World War II veteran; and Fred McGee, Korean War veteran, with many military honors. Back, Joseph Kubat, U.S. Army, 2nd Brigade; Charles Strizak, 10th district commander; Commissoner Thomas Graham, soloist; Richard Stobbs, Ohio Veterans United; Robert Wallace, guest speaker; William Smythe, Jefferson County Veterans Association commander; and Steven Miro, PFC. U.S. Army. - Esther McCoy
McGee told the group he is involved with a post traumatic stress group, indicating that about 5,000 members of the military have committed suicide from recent wars. "We have to take care of our veterans who return shell shocked and in need of help," he said.
The program wasn't all about past wars. Two young men, Joseph Kubat of the U.S. Army, who served in the U.S. Army 2nd brigade; and PFC Steven Miro, who went through basic training and now is awaiting orders to proceed, took part in the seven gun salute at the close of the program.
Miro spoke to the audience, telling that he was part of a family military tradition and that he had always wanted to be in the U.S. Army. A prior illness kept him back from becoming part of the military earlier but he has completed basic training and is ready to move on.
Charles Strizak, 10th district commander, introduced Richard Stobbs of Colerain, one of 20 veterans who was inducted into the 2011 Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
William Smythe, veterans association commander, said , "We can't call this Armistice Day, as it was once meant to be an armistice to end all wars 93 years ago but we can honor all veterans who have served over the years."
He spoke about the Fort Friendship Memorial Wall now being constructed, noting that bricks commemorating veterans will be sold for $50 each and can be purchased from any member of the association.
Robert Wallace, former Bellaire police chief, was the guest speaker at both the veterans association program at Friendship Park and at Buckeye Local High School.
A member of the Bellaire Veterans of Foreign Wars and Bellaire American Legion Post 52, said, "The concept of what it means to serve your country is not about valor alone. It is about service in peacetime as well, it is about service."
Wallace told about his father serving in World War II and receiving a bronze star for saving his unit.
While looking into the family closet one day, he found a dagger and thought about its greatness until he learned that engraved on the sabre in a foreign language was the English translation of "Germany above all."
"Then my dad's bronze metal became so much more important," he said. "But my dad never told of his battles. He lived with great dignity and without a whimper in the face of death but he never talked about it."
"In the winter of our lives, the one duty we have as veterans is to reach out to the next generation. To tell them what America has meant to them and how it is worth fighting for," he said.
Strizak thanked Wallace and said, "You are an inspiration to us all." Wallace answered back, "You veterans inspire me."
Commissioner Thomas Graham sang the "National Anthem" to start the program and ended with the singing of "Proud to be an American." He introduced a family member, his dad, Ellsworth Graham, 84-years-old, who was a U.S, Navy veteran.
Jack Campbell, Brilliant American Legion Post 573 and the county veterans association chaplain, gave the invocation and benediction.
Rick Pastre played military songs as the flags of each branch of service were displayed by Jay Kolenc of the Hopedale American Legion and the Jefferson County Veterans Association; and Lamont McCoy, Piney Fork American Legion and the veterans association, displayed the flags that are normally raised on poles at the Fort Friendship Monument.
Legions were present from Brilliant Post 573, Bellaire Post 52, Smithfield Post 396, Cadiz Post 34, Amsterdam Post 232, Hopedale Post 682, Dillonvale Post 529, Piney Fork Post 735, toronto Post 86, Wintersville Post 537, Korean Veterans and the Band of Brothers.