SIDNEY — Thank you for your service and welcome home.
That was the message delivered loud and clear to all Vietnam War veterans by Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services during Monday night’s Veteran’s Day program at the Shelby County Fair. More than 50 veterans for World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and other conflicts and their families attended the event.
“I’m horrified at the way we treated the Vietnam veterans,” said Tansill. “We’ll never be able to make it up to them.”
Tansill said he gives Vietnam veterans a lapel as a small thank you for their service to the United States.
“They were following orders,” said Tansill of the unpopular war. “We need to thank them for their service and welcome them home. We owe them a significant debt of gratitude.”
Tansill said another group who needs a special thank are the spouses of veterans who kept the homes running while the men and women serving in the military are were deployed.
“If you are a spouse of a veteran, please stand,” said Tansill. “We need to give these people a great round of applause.”
Tansill said he had the greatest job in the state of Ohio. There are 800,000 veterans in Ohio — the sixth largest veterans population in the United States and its four territories. There are 3,400 veterans in Shelby County.
“You came back home to be a leader in your county,” said Tansill. “You don’t realize how much influence you have in your community.”
Tansill said there are 250 veterans service offices in Ohio’s 88 counties. There are 440 commissioners who serve those service offices.
“Ten thousand, 800 veterans come home every year to Ohio,” he said. “Every branch of the service in Ohio is successful in meeting their recruiting goals. They (recruits) are putting politics aside to defend the U.S.
“They are entering the service because they are answering a calling to take care of our country,” he said.
Tansill also discussed the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Three Shelby County residents — Kathy Hayes, Mike Bennett and Thomas Francis — are members of the hall.
“What gets you in the hall is what you do after your service for our community,” said Tansill. “I’d love to see more inducted from Shelby County.”
To nominate a veteran for the hall of fame, visit Ohiovets.gov.
“Last night (Sunday) I was at another fair,” said Tansill. “I was honored to meet Korean War veterans — there were 20 of them there. I met one who had a Purple Heart.”
The veteran, he said, had been stabbed with a bayonet during the war.
“He was getting around fine and I asked him how he was,” said Tansill. “He replied, ‘I’m here and he’s not.’ I also met a World War II veteran who had four Bronze Stars.”
Every person joins the military for a different reason, said Tansill.
“Some join to get away from something,” he said. “Others join because they are going to something. For others, their families told them to join.
“I’m from West Virginia and I come from a military family,” he said. “My family were primarily Navy men. I spent 32 years in the Army.”
He said he was influenced by his mother’s father when he decided to join the Army.
“He chose to tell me his stories,” said Tansill. “He inspired me to be in the Army. At 17, I told me dad I was going to join the service.”
His dad, he said, waited and watched as Tansill made his announcement.
“When I said Army, you could have heard a pin drop,” said Tansill. “He said, “Son, at 17 I have to sign for you to join. I’ll sign for the Army, but you can never join the Marine Corps.’
“I love all branches of the military,” said Tansill. “I love to pick on the Air Force. Most of them in there are smarter than me.”
Less than 1 percent of all Americans, he said, will serve in the military. One of four people ages 18 to 25 are serving their country in the military.
“I served 24 years in active duty,” said Tansill. “I can never forget what my wife and daughter looked like when I would leave. I will never forget their faces when I came home.
“We all need to thank the families for what they’ve done. They mowed the grass. They changed the oil in the car. They drove the tractor on the farm.
“If someone thanks you for your service, you should introduce your spouse to them,” he said.
Tansill said he was shocked by the number of people who attended Monday’s ceremony.
“Thank you for your service,” he said.
Jerry Schmdit, Shelby County Agricultural Society (fair board) member, said Monday was the 35th annual Veteran’s Day program at the fair. Fair Haven provided the refreshments for the event.
“I’d like to thank the spouses for putting up with us veterans,” said Schmidt. “You were there for us in our time of need. When we needed you the most, you were there. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.”
Zack Bosslet, Shelby County Veterans Service Office commissioner, was the master of ceremonies for the event.
“We’re here for you because at one time, you were there for us,” Bosslet told the veterans.
The Senior Center Singers performed during the evening event. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Sophie, Liam and Nolan Bosslet, children of Zack and Sherri Bosslet. Duane Mullen, VFW Post 4230 chaplain, said the opening prayer and benediction.
Taps was performed by American Legion Post 217. The Color Guard included members from all the county veterans posts.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.