SIDNEY — The sound of young voices filled the Free Entertainment Tent Monday night during the 32nd annual Veteran’s Day program at the Shelby County Fair.
The Fairlawn Children’s Choir, donned in red, white and blue outfits, saluted America’s veterans as they performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Three Cheers for America.” More than 225 veterans, spouses and friends filled the tent for the program.
“This means a lot to me,” said veteran Larry DeMange, of Sidney. “It’s a way of honoring the veterans who lost their lives and those who didn’t and are suffering from injuries.”
DeMange said he comes to the program every year.
Russell Davis, of Jackson Center, served in the U.S. Marines and was sent to fight in the Vietnam War.
“This is excellent for me,” said Davis of the program. “When I came off the plane from Vietnam, I was spit on.
“I’m so proud that my county does this for its veterans,” he said. “The trips to Washington, D.C., for the veterans to see their memorials is also wonderful.”
Davis had gone on the trip, sponsored by the Shelby County Veterans to D.C. in September 2014.
Ed Ball, Shelby County Veteran Service Officer, was the guest speaker for the evening. He updated the veterans on what’s been happening locally and on the federal level regarding veterans compensation, medical expenses and changes dealing with Agent Orange from the Vietnam War.
In 2006, said Ball, Shelby County veterans received $2 million in compensation from the federal government. In 2014, that amount increased to nearly $7 million.
Veterans Administration (VA) medical expenses spent on local veterans in 2006 was $3 million. In 2014, $7,075,000 was spent.
The number of veterans in Shelby County in 2006, said Ball, was 4,077. In 2014, reports show there are 3,568 veterans in the county.
Ball encouraged every veteran who might have a VA claim to file to go through the Veterans Service Office.
“If our office does the paperwork, it takes 139 days or less to process it,” said Ball. “If you do the claim and do the work on your own, it might take up to two years to process it if they need additional information.”
There are changes in specifications concerning Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, said Ball.
The C123 aircraft, which was used to drop Agent Orange in Vietnam and Laos, remains contaminated with the chemicals to this day, said Ball.
“In 1975, equipment was brought home. The materials in those air crafts are still being used today,” said Ball. “They are still contaminated.”
The Veterans Service Office will connect veterans who flew in these plans with compensation requirements.
Legislation on what waterways in Vietnam should be covered under compensation for Agent Orange is also being heard in Washington, D.C., said Ball. A new definition of the waterway would provide compensation to members of the Navy, he said.
Ball said the Veterans Service Office has done its own research about the waterways in Vietnam.
“We took on the research the federal government didn’t want to do,” said Ball. “It’s been sent to the Veterans Board of Appeals.”
The concern, he said, centers around DeNang where the military processed fresh water. The water was pumped through a water treatment plant into barges, which then took it to the ships containing American soldiers. Three million gallons of water was provided to ships, he said.
The situation with the waterways, he said, is coming to light in the press. The Blue Water Navy veterans would be able to receive compensation if waterway definition is changed.
“It should be if you enter their waterways, then you are in that country,” said Ball.
Ball also talked about Heroes of Hearing Loss, which provides equipment, such as a phone, free of charge to veterans.
“There’s no test for tinnitus,” said Ball. “If you have ringing in your ears or hear chirping. There’s no test to prove you have it. Veterans can get 10 percent service connected compensation for this.”
The problem veterans run into, he said, is the fact that it’s not in their medical records as happening during their time in the service.
“If you have one negative medical opinion and one positive medical opinion about tinnitus, then they cancel each other out,” said Ball. “All facts must be reviewed and an award be made in favor of the veteran.”
Ball said the Women’s Veteran Conference will be held Sept 12 in Columbus.
The Field of Valor will be coming to Custenborder Field in Sidney from Aug 31 to Sept. 6. On Sept. 3, the Sidney Civic Band will be performing at 6:30 p.m.
Ball then recognized the veterans from each branch of the military: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The Honor Guard presented the colors during the ceremony.
A moment of silence was held to remember those who “went before us, the POWs and MIAs.”
A 21-gun salute to the fallen comrades was provided by American Legion Post 217. Taps was played by American Legion Post 217.
Refreshments for the evening were provided by Fair Haven.