SIDNEY — The sun was bright as Shelby County residents gathered at the courthouse for a time of remembrance Sunday, Nov. 11, as they recalled all men and women who have served their country in the military.
”When the final tally is totaled. When the naysayers have had their say, it will be the veteran that rises above all as the one who made and kept this country free,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Jim Hall, who was the keynote speaker. “Perhaps we should examine just what a veteran is. We have all heard the statement that vets are someone who writes a blank check to their country and lets the country fill in the amount. However vets are much much more than that.”
A veteran, said Hall, is a man or woman who never ever would disrespect their country or their flag. A vet is that starry eyed kid who hated his drill instructor until several deployments later discovered the drill instructor really was trying to save his life.
“A vet is a brave man who protected the father of our country George Washington in the Revolutionary War,” said Hall.
The veteran, he said, has fought in many battles and wars in defending the United States. It’s the person who fought with great valor in the Mexican War. The young men who served their country in the Civil War and served as a bodyguard for President Abraham Lincoln.
“A vet is young men who fought in many battles in the Civil War, and died when the steamer bringing them home sank and many lives were lost,” he said. “A vet is a man who sailed to France, spent eight months in a trench, and was wounded by shrapnel and mustard gas in World War One.”
The veteran was a bomber/navigator in WW II who fought in the European Theatre flying on B-17’s and received two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Purple Heart and many other awards, said Hall. He spent the rest of his life feeling the shrapnel in his head every time he combed his hair.
“A vet is a B-26 pilot who flew 65 combat missions in world war ii and had to bail out of a plane that would no longer get him safely home,” said Hall. “A vet is a soldier in a mash unit in Korea who received three Bronze Stars for valor while fighting to get the wounded off the battlefield.
A vet is a para-rescue man in Vietnam who was credited with saving hundreds of lives, earned three Silver Stars, and sadly lost his life.
“A vet is radio operator in Vietnam who was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart,” said Hall. “Or the Navy guy who did daily patrols in the Mekong Delta. Or the young helicopter gunner who flew daily and prayed he could cross off one more day on his short-timer calendar.
Or the severely wounded young man in Vietnam who waited in agony to be evacuated and still had the guts to reload magazines and pass to his buddies so they could continue the fight. A vet is a nurse who served in Iraq and reached the rank of full colonel.
“And now the rest of the story,” said Hall. “Every veteran I mentioned above was born, raised or lived in Shelby County, Ohio. And believe me Ii could add many more to that distinguished list. They are probably standing next to you today and you probably don’t know their story. For you see they, like most vets they just did their job and for them that was enough.
“Since the Revolutionary War we have lost nearly 550 young men, in Shelby County. We lost nearly 10 percent of the population of Shelby County in the Civil War, some 330 men,” he said.
Veterans served, he said, because it was the right thing to do. They left their homes as boys and girls and returned as stronger men and women.
“They fought for a cause, and sometimes the cause was not a just one. But were never waived in their dedication to their country or having the back of that guy beside them. They were brothers then, and remain brothers to this day,” said Hall.
“After the service vet’s came home, hung their uniforms in the closet, and went to the task of living life to its fullest. They married, had children and dedicated themselves to serving their community,” said Hall. “Shelby County is blessed with having so many brave men and women who went beyond the call of duty. I personally want to thank Sidney and Shelby County for the support they have shown our veterans .
The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I. Unfortunately, said Hall, it was not the war to end all wars.
“Alvin York was a barely literate young man from Tennessee when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. even though he raised Cain in his youth he found religion which just happened to coincide with the draft for World War One. He tried to avoid military service and declared himself a conscientious objector. That did not work out well as he was ordered to Camp Gordon to begin his basic training,” said Hall.
“He finally decided that he would ship to France with his regiment and was soon deeply mired in the Muse Argonne Offensive, he would become the most decorated soldier of World War One receiving almost every award for bravery that America could bestow ,including the Congressional Medal of Honor. By himself he destroyed many German bunkers, and with seven other soldiers captured 132 German enlisted men and officers. When ask by his commanding officer why he did this he simply replied, ‘I did that to save lives.’ Offered over $250,000 to go on the Vaudeville circuit, he refused and went home to start a Christian school. He was a fine American and a hero in every sense of the word,” said Hall.
“None of us really had a choice of what we did in the service or where we went. if you served your country you deserve and have the respect of a grateful nation,” said Hall.”Unfortunately vets from World War Two, Korea and even Vietnam or leaving us at an alarming rate. When they are gone we will have lost a national treasure.
“Now I need to ask you a favor. if you see a vet just say thank you, visit them at their homes, and show them how much you really care,” said Hall.
Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst also spoke at the ceremony.
”Today, we gather together to observe Veteran’s Day, and to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the War of the Nations, the Great War, the War to End all Wars – it was a century ago the armistice that ended the hostilities in what eventually came to be known as World War I was signed – on the 11th hour of the 11th day or the 11th month – which is why we gather here today at that hour,” said Barhorst.
“Unfortunately, the War to End all Wars didn’t live up to its name. Perhaps that’s why we today hardly remember General Black Jack Pershing, the American general whose picture once hung on the wall of nearly every American home. Perhaps too, that’s why we’ve all but forgotten the longest battle in history – the Battle of Verdun – all 299 days – all 800,000 casualties – a battle that began with an artillery barrage of 2.5M shells – a battle that saw more than 60M artillery shells fired in total.
“Perhaps that’s why we’ve all but forgotten three great empires all of which ceased to exist as a result of the war – the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an empire that existed for more than 51 years, the Russian Empire, and empire that lasted more than 197 years, and even the Ottoman Empire, an empire that existed more than 619 years.
“Perhaps it was the realization that the War to End all Wars did not live up to its name that early in my lifetime, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor the men and women who have served our country’s armed forces in times of both war and peace,” said Barhorst.
“And so today, we fittingly do so. We gather here in the center of our community – Courthouse Square – and we thank those who have served – whether they represented the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Army, the Air Force or the Marines – and we thank as well those who continue to serve. Even as we stand here there are service members in harm’s way around the world. I would ask you to daily, pause for a moment to think of those currently standing watch across the globe, and pray for their safe return. Pray as well for their families and loved ones,” said Barhorst. “It is through their sacrifice that we are able to enjoy our lives.”
Shelby County Commissioner Tony Bornhorst also presented remarks. Adam Barchelder was the master of ceremonies. Carl Wical gave the innovation and benediction. Amvets members placed memorial wreaths during the ceremony. A rifle salute was presented American Legion Post 217 firing squad and taps were played by the Sidney High School band.
The ceremony was organized by Shelby County Veterans Services.