Decades after they were classmates in New Market, veterans Denver Conley and Vernon Garrison said they were surprised to learn recently that veteran banners in their honor had been placed earlier this year on opposite sides of the same pole on East Main Street in Hillsboro.
Conley, 87, said that while he only attended the New Market school for about the last half of eighth grade after moving in from Brown County, he and Garrison both graduated from Hillsboro High School, served in their country, were volunteers reserve officers at the same time with the Hillsboro Police Department, and are now practically neighbors with only a field separating them on the east side of Hillsboro.
Garrison, 84, said what he remembered about Conley from the New Market Days was that they both had lots of brothers.
Being housebound for about a year with a broken hip, Conley said he was not aware of the side-by-side banners until one of Garrison’s daughter, Theresa Raish, contacted his daughter, Karen Darland, about them. That led to the picture that’s part of this story.
After graduating from HHS in 1950, Conley said went to Korea in late 1952 and was there through all of 1953 with the U.S. Air Force 428th Fighter Bomber Squadron. He said he was an aircraft crew chief in charge of five F-84s that flew daily missions into North Korea carrying 500- and 1,00o-pound bombs. He finished his career with the Air Force in 1987 after serving more than three decades as an aircraft mechanic at several bases. He also served five years with the Highland County Veterans Service Office, retiring when he was 75.
Garrison, a 1953 HHS graduate, also served many years in the service. He said he spent two years as a member of the U.S. Army in Kaiserslautern, Germany, a headquarters for Tiger tanks. He then was a member of the Ohio National Guard for 25 years.
Both were members of large families and had several brothers serve in the military.
Conley said he had six brothers. The three oldest served in World War II, the next one served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, he was fifth in line, the sixth spent his life as a policeman and firefighter, and the seventh was in the Navy.
“We were all in uniform at one time or another although one brother never actually served in the military,” Conley said Friday. “I’m the last one. I don’t know why I’m still here, but I’m blessed to be on the phone in my recliner drinking coffee and talking to you.”
Garrison said he had four brothers. Ralph Garrison served in the U.S. Navy, Marvin Garrison served in the U.S. Army/Air Force, Hugh Garrison served in the U.S. Army in Australia, and Allen Dale Garrison served in Vietnam.
“He was the only one that was in the combat zone. He got shot at,” Vernon Garrison said of Allen.
Both said it was a pleasant surprise to reunite and find out their banners were on the same pole.
With Veterans Day coming up Monday, they both reflected on what the day means to them.
“I’m glad I can sleep good at night. I know it’s because of all those guys that gave their lives,” Garrison said.
Conley said he wished it was someone else was being interviewed by the newspaper about Veterans Day, but that it is kind of all the local people that honored service members with banners.
“I hope people understand that the military — everyone that served is a hero, but especially those that gave their lives, ” Conley said. “They’ve all put their life on the line and some of them came back like myself, and many others did not.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.