Sunday was a day of thanksgiving, prayer and patriotic display, 31-year military veteran Jeff Beery, M.D., said during a Veterans Day celebration held at Hillsboro VFW Post 9094, where he was the guest speaker.
“I think those are three things we need to save our country,” Beery said. “I think there’s a lot of hope in the United States, but there’s also a lot of people who don’t appreciate those things.”
A 1982 graduate of Hillsboro High School, Berry said he joined the Ohio National Guard as a sophomore in medical school because he was afraid of Russia and wanted to fight it. He transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1996 and retired with more than 31 years of military service this year.
“They were a great secular threat and wanted to wipe out religion and dominate the world,” Beery said of Russia.
He said that earlier Sunday, on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, he had a lifelong dream fulfilled when he heard a bell located in front of the Highland County Historical Society’s Highland House Museum toll 21 times at 11 a.m. as part of a nationwide celebration marking the end of World War I.
Also placed in front of the Highland House were 32 flags representing the 32 Highland County residents that died — eight were killed in battle and the others due to influenza or pneumonia — during the First World War.
The bell in front of the Highland House was the largest ever cast by C.S. Bell, according to local historical Jean Wallis. She said it was created around the turn of the century and formerly sat in front of the C.S. Bell factory.
“I had never heard it. That was fantastic,” said Beery, whose father, Forrest Beery, served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Vicki Knauff, director of the Highland House, said 35 to 40 people showed up for the bell ringing and a short program that followed.
Rick Wilkin, Hillsboro VFW Post commander, served as master of ceremonies Sunday. He said Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans, living or dead, but especially the living who served their country honorably during war or peacetime. He also noted that Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. It became a national holiday in 1938 and President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954, Wilkin said.
“The military men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life. They are parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and are an important part of their communities,” Wilkin said.
He then pointed out the following figures:
*16.1 million veterans served during at least one war;
* 5.2 million veterans served in peacetime;
* 2 million veterans are women;
* 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War;
* 5.5 million veterans served in the Persian Gulf War;
* Of the 16 million veterans who served during World War II, about 558,000 are still alive;
Wilkin also noted the presence of Leesburg resident Lee Harris at the celebration. This year Harris won four gold medals at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in the shot put, slalom (obstacle course), bowling and billiards. He said he plans to return to the 2019 games July 11-16 in Louisville, Ky.
A long list of Veterans Day programs where held throughout Highland County beginning in late October and continuing through this week. They conclude Nov. 16-17 when McClain High School presents a performance of “MASH” at 7:30 p.m. both evenings. Veterans get 50 percent off the $5 admission fee at Saturday’s performance.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.