FORT LORAMIE — In a moving ceremony in the high school gym, Fort Loramie Local Schools students and staff paid tribute to 99 veterans, Friday, Nov. 9.
The guest speaker was retired U.S. Army Col. Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. Tansill joined the Army Reserve in 1982, was deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990 and in 2011 was named chief of staff for the Ohio National Guard. Gov. John R. Kasich appointed him director of the state’s veterans services office in 2015.
“I didn’t expect to see so many people here today,” he told the packed gymnasium. “That tells me how much this community cares for its veterans.”
The 98 men and two women who were seated in places of honor represented service during fighting in Afghanistan, World War II, all wars in between and peace time.
“People sitting here today chose to go somewhere they’d never been before,” Tansill said. “In Ohio, every day is Veterans Day. Ohio is one of the highest recruiting states in all branches of the military. Most of you will never know what these people had to go through. They won’t talk about it, unless it’s to someone who was there, too.”
He noted that fewer than 1 percent of Americans serves in the now all-volunteer military.
“Most of the men and women sitting here were drafted. Most of them would have volunteered if they hadn’t been drafted,” he said.
He also commended the families of service people.
“They wouldn’t be what they are without family,” he said. He recounted that when he was deployed to the Persian Gulf, it was his family who had to keep things going at home.
“Who’s going to mow the grass, pay the bills, change the oil?” he asked. He requested, and got, a round of applause from the veterans for their families who were in attendance at the ceremony.
Tansill said that there are 800,000 military veterans in Ohio, making it the sixth-largest state of veteran residents.
“Ten thousand vets come home every year to this state. There are 284,000 men and women who are Vietnam War vets in Ohio. That is significant. When the Vietnam vets came home, the country was different (from today). It was horrible for them to come home. Now we cry and clap when servicepeople leave and come home.”
That didn’t happen for Vietnam veterans. Tansill said we owe them that.
“For goodness sake, we owe them a welcome home. If you see a Vietnam vet — and they love to wear their hats — thank them for their service and say, ‘Welcome home,’” Tansill added.
He went on to say that veterans didn’t stop serving when they took off their uniforms. He noted that inductees to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame are selected because of their community service after they have left the military.
“We are a country of service,” he said. “Sunday (which is Veterans Day), I’m going to be thinking about friends, family members I have lost. Once you serve in the military, you come back with a better appreciation of the country. I want Veterans Day to be a day when people sitting here remember. Celebrate veterans — all 19 million of them. Say ‘Thank you for giving up a portion of your life that you’ll never get back.”
Before Tansill spoke, the veterans paraded into the gym from a breakfast they had enjoyed as the high school band played patriotic songs. Brad Turner, adviser of the Old School History Club, which had coordinated the event, read the names of each one, and they received a standing ovation from the crowd.
There were several other standing ovations during the ceremony, including one for Melba Bender, now of New Bremen, a Gold Star wife whose first husband was killed in action in World War II. She then married another soldier and will celebrate her 102nd birthday in April.
History Club members discussed the meaning of the holiday. Maddi Rose gave a recognition of current service members. Emily Austin presented Veterans Day history. Riley Middendorf read a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Blake Holthaus introduced Tansill. Carson Moore thanked people who helped him in the last year to complete an Eagle Scout project, Local Legends banners.
Evan Hoelscher introduced trumpeters Cassidy Albers and Nora Beresik, who played taps, and Hoeslcher led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The color guard of Fort Loramie American Legion Post No. 355 presented and retired the colors.
“It was a great day as we celebrated some of our community’s best people. We were overwhelmed by the number of veterans who turned out for the program and the community support of the program,” Turner said.
Reach the writer at 037-538-4824.