Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Monday that Ohioans have defended the United States in wars throughout the years on behalf of past and current generations of Americans and “future generations not yet born.”
DeWine was the featured speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Highland County Veterans Memorial in Hillsboro, and a big crowd gathered under clear blue skies to pay tribute to those who gave all in service to their country.
DeWine congratulated Highland County on the “beautiful memorial” that was dedicated on the courthouse grounds in 2012 and which the attorney general said former Highland County Commissioner Tom Horst had described to him.
DeWine quoted remarks made at the dedication by Major “Mac” McCray, U.S. Army (ret.), calling the memorial a “repository of forgotten dreams.” McCray, 93, was on hand Monday, offering the invocation and benediction.
DeWine said that when he served in the U.S. Senate, he attended more than 100 funerals for service members who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their nation “are and always will be the pride of our nation,” quoting President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
DeWine closed his remarks with the World War I-era poem “Ode of Remembrance,” part of which is chiseled into the Highland County Veterans Memorial. The poem reads, “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
The crowd on hand Monday was welcomed by Rick Wilkin, commander of VFW Post 9094, and Wilkin reminded everyone why the annual ceremony is held. Wilkin said there are currently 1,568 bricks with veterans’ names at the memorial, but with 5,000 total bricks onsite, there is “a lot of room” for more names. People interested in honoring individuals with an inscribed brick can contact Wilkin at 937-364-2371.
Highland County Commissioner Jeff Duncan read a proclamation in honor of the day. His fellow commissioners, Shane Wilkin and Terry Britton, were also on hand, as were other county officials and city officials.
The Highland County Veterans Honor Guard lowered the American Flag to half-mast for the ceremony.
As Boy Scout Troop 171 and the VFW’s Dwight Reynolds and Dave Pinney performed the folding of the flag, Judy McCray, “Mac” McCray’s wife and a veteran herself, read a description of what each of the 13 folds in the flag represents.
Reynolds and Pinney conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial, while Kevin Barreras of Chapter 123 of the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans Service Commission, did the same for each branch of the armed forces.
Members of the Hillsboro High School Band, under the direction of Kevin Gro, played each of the service branches’ theme songs as members of each respective branch stood when their theme was played.
The band also accompanied Alberta Duncan on the National Anthem and “God Bless America.” Duncan also performed “Taps” on the trumpet during a Three Volley Salute by the Honor Guard when the service ended.
Russ Roever offered a tribute to POWs and MIAs, asking for no applause out of respect for them, and Barreras discussed the work of the local Veterans Service Commission.
Near the end of the ceremony, Wilkin said he was recently notified that two individuals from Greenfield were the first to lose their lives in World War II, having been stationed on the USS Arizona when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.
Wilkin read from an old newspaper clipping describing the men as John A. Smith, 21, and Woodrow Wilson, 19. He said a third Greenfield resident, Jim Wise, was on the Arizona, but survived. He said Smith and Wilson would be honored in the future with special bricks at the memorial. After the ceremony, Wilkin was told that there may be others in Highland County who also qualify for that distinction.
Wilkin invited the audience to visit the VFW hall for refreshments after the program, as well as encouraging them to visit a military display at the Highland House Museum.
Other services held around the county Monday included:
• Greenfield, where the Concerned Veterans of Greenfield held its annual observance with a parade proceeding to the Greenfield Cemetery, with a stop at the veterans memorials on the City Building law in between. The grand marshal was Edward “Bucky” Rooks. The featured speaker was the Rev. Terry Washburn, portraying Gen. John E. Hull. Following the ceremony, the Greenfield Historical Society’s Cemetery Stroll was scheduled to take place, featuring World War I veterans, at the Greenfield Cemetery.
• Pricetown, with activities at the Pricetown Church of Christ and a march to the cemetery. Peter Fields was the honored veteran at the service in the cemetery. The main program featured traditional Memorial Day music, the presentation of Honor Quilts to veterans, and a keynote speech from Gary Smaltz, a retired ES master sergeant who served 31 years in the Army Reserve. A community fellowship dinner was scheduled beginning at noon, sponsored by the Pricetown Church of Christ.
• Sinking Spring, at the Sinking Spring Community Church. The Women in Ministry served lunch, and all veterans were invited to eat for free.
• South Salem, with a parade to the cemetery behind the Buckskin School. A ceremony in the cemetery was scheduled for 2 p.m., and the annual South Salem United Methodist Church Strawberry Social followed at the church. All the food was homemade.
• Buford, where the Buford Cemetery was once again the site of veterans being honored on Memorial Day and a parade was scheduled. This year’s guest speaker was Alex Butler.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.