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Of heroes and dedicated volunteers

May 27, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a commemorative day set aside on May 20, 1868, after the Civil War ended. At that time, flowers were put on the graves of both sides, in order to heal the nation. It was later expanded to include all men who died in American wars.

This information was given to me by Roger Sliva who is in charge of Memorial Day programs at Buckeye West Elementary School and earlier at Adena American Legion Post 525.

I have an e-mail from Natalie Doty telling about the six soldiers on the Iwo Jima Memorial. This is told by James Bradley, son of one of the soldiers, to a group of youth touring the monuments.

Article Photos

The new firehouse dedication brought out the dress uniforms and white gloves in, from left, Mike Nichols, Curt Creamer, Cory Scaffidi, Brian Harvey and Daniel Hutchison.

"Six boys raised the flag on Iwo Jima. The one putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block, an all-state football player who enlisted in the Marines to play another kind of game, called 'war.' He died with his intestines in his hands. Most of the boys in Iwo Jima were between 17 and 19 years old, he said."

"The next was Rene Gagnon who carried a photo of his girlfriend in the webbing of his helmet for protection. He was 18 years old and scared."

"The third guy was Sgt. Mike Strank, called the old man at 24. He never told his boys to go kill some Japanese or to die for their country. He knew he was talking to little boys. He would say instead 'You do what I say, and you will get home to your mothers.'"

Another guy is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian. He lived to walk off Ima Jima and went into the White House to hear President Harry Truman tell him he was a hero."

"How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 others walked off alive?" he asked." He carried the pain home and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a shallow puddle at age 32.

"The next is Franklin Sousley, a hillbilly boy with a great sense of humor. He died on Iwo Jima at age 19 When the telegram arrived it went to Hilltop General Store and was delivered to his home by a barefoot boy. The neighbor could hear her scream all night and into the morning, and they lived a quarter mile away."

"The last guy was my dad, John Bradley," the younger Bradley said. "He lived until 1994 but would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained to say he was not at home, but he was sitting there at the table. He didn't want to talk about it."

"As a little boy, my third-grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. I told my dad that, and he said, 'I want you to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the ones who did not come back," he said.

"My dad was a medic, a combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held more than 200 boys as they died, writhing and screaming without medication or help with the pain," he said.

"If you look at the statue closely and count the number of hands raising the flag, there are 13. The man who made the statue was asked why, and he said the 13th hand was the hand of God," Bradley concluded with great emotion.

The Piney Fork American Legion Post 735 is holding their Memorial Day services today at noon.

There will be readings by the post's Boy State delegates, Devon Vogelsong, Jim Wharton and Dylan Williams. The auxiliary sponsored Girls State delegates are Kaylee DeCesare, Danielle Irvin, Marlee Piergallini and Haleigh Poch.

There will be the presentation of auxiliary membership pins and a lunch will be served by the ladies.


I saw another type of hero when I attended the new Brilliant Station 33 Fire House dedication last Saturday.

These dedicated men worked without the help of grants to obtain funds for building a fantastic facility with four bays, offices, an exercise room and meeting room.

John Goosman and Malcolm Fellows both contacted me about coming to view their flag-raising and ribbon-cutting. I found it to be a fantastic success, with a crowd of residents and well-wishers present.

While watching the parade, a young boy walked up and asked if I would take a picture of his brother's band, playing the national anthem. Since he had the courage to ask, I obliged.

The band, "All Ends Well," was a group of local young men including Logan Bell, John Sampson, Anthony Sterling, Devon Vogelsong and Zack Malesky. They entertained with music the entire afternoon.

The firemen looked quite dignified wearing their dress uniforms and white gloves, although admitting the attire was quite warm.

Larry Flowers, state fire marshal, stopped to talk to Rich Jeffers before speaking to the crowd. He was a firefighter and fire chief at one time, too, he said.

Bill Smythe, Charles Bane and Paul Scott, Brilliant American Legion Post 573 officers, presented the U.S. flag that was raised by firemen on the new flag pole.

Don Hutchison, fire chief, who has been a member since 1971, gave a detailed history of the department and its devotion to Brilliant, Wells Township and other areas.

Fellows, the oldest serving member at 52 years, was named to do the ribbon cutting but was called out on an emergency, something the men are used to happening. The honor fell to the next oldest in years served, Rich Jeffers, with 48 years. "I can't believe the changes in equipment and in this town since the time I joined the department," he said.

Hutchison presented Sandy Jeffers with a sliver of yellow ribbon from the ribbon-cutting for a keepsake. When Fellows, returned, he received a ribbon souvenir as well.

Sandy Jefferson was telling me that her husband, Rich, had spent much of last winter and a portion of this year in the hospital. She also told me the landscaping in front of the fire station and the basket of flowers were presented in memory of Tim Fellows, who died in January. The money came from donations made in Tim's memory, she noted.

Mary Free, Brilliant U.S. Bank branch manager, presented a check to Hutchison from the bank. They were one of the groups acknowledged by the chief for their help along the way, along with the Wells Township Police Department, county commissioners and John Corrigan.

I got to visit with Naomi Matthews; Pam Degenhart; and Earl Richardson, who was telling me about his son, Dick, being promoted in the Columbus Fire Department.


Rob Rowe, pastor at the New Somerset Christian Church, was telling me he had been in the clergy for 50 years, starting in 1962, at the Plum Run Church, where he gave his first sermon. We met through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes when my uncle Bill was vice president of the organization and I would go to the West Liberty Retreats with the student members. That is where I met the Griffin brothers, Archie and Daryle. Rich Wilinski was a great promoter of the organization and was there with his students as well.


The Jefferson County Fair board wants it known that the open class beef show and judging will be held on Aug. 16 at the event that extends from Aug. 14-19.

Livestock owners can keep the cattle at the barn stalls or "show and go." This is a change from the showing day of last year.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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