On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps commander Rick Wooddell welcomed veterans and family and friends to the annual Veterans Day dinner at the Pocahontas County Opera House in Marlinton.
The tradition of honoring veterans began with Armistice Day in 1919. In 1938, the day was changed to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans who have served or are serving in the armed forces.
“More than twenty-five million Veterans walk among us, and, on this day, our nation pauses to remember them all,” Wooddell said.
The event began with the POW/MIA ceremony, in which a table for one is set to signify the nearly 82,000 servicemen and women who are still classified as Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. The ceremony was performed by Wooddell and Honor Corps member Donnie Waybright.
Wooddell and Waybright then performed the Bells for the Fallen ceremony. As Wooddell read the names of veterans who passed away in the past year, Waybright rang a bell – once for each veteran and twice for veterans who were also in the Honor Corps.
James Burton 66, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Richard Dale, 95, U.S. Navy, World War II
Terry Coleman, 69, U.S. Navy, Vietnam
Scott Hayes, 49, U.S. Army, Cold War
Bennie Shiflett, 68, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Crystal Baker, 38, U.S. Army, Operation Enduring Freedom
Kenneth Frum, 77, U.S. Navy, Vietnam
Charles Vanlandingham, 71, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam
Lloyd Armstrong, 75, U.S. Army, Vietnam
John Ralston, 91, U.S. Air Force, Korea
Derrick Ervine, 38, U.S. Army, Operation Iraqi Freedom
David Ervine, 75, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Ivan VanReenan, 93, U.S. Navy, Korea
Stephanie Brockway, 37, U.S. Army, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom
John Buly, 97, U.S. Army Air Corps, World War II
Robert Warren, 79, U.S. Navy, Vietnam
George Fuller, 90, US. Coast Guard, Korea
Steve Moore, 71, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam
Forrest Friel, 89, U.S. Army, Korea
Bill Gowan, 90, U.S. Navy, World War II
Robert Burner, 68, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Wayne Sheets, 84, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, Vietnam
Doug Stewart, 75, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Ernie Friel, 83, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Samuel Kincaid, 72, U.S. Army, Vietnam
John Burton, 64, U.S. Army, Vietnam
Harry Price, 90, U.S. Marine Corps, Korea
Harvey Galford, 81, U.S. Navy, Vietnam
Wooddell then shared the following excerpt from the American Legion Veterans Day message.
“The service of America’s veterans never truly ends. Even when they hand up their military uniforms for the last time, many still choose to protect us. Today is a day to honor all the men and women who served in the U.S. military. It is about the approximately 19 million U.S. veterans who are still with us today and the millions who have preceded them since the American Revolution.
“Many serve their communities as first responders, teachers healthcare workers or church leaders. Some are business owners, farmers, company workers or retirees.
“Veterans are a diverse group represented by men and women of every economic, ethnic and religious background. They come from every state and territory, but are bound by one common commitment – to defend America with their life if called upon.
“From fighting terrorism, defeating fascism and liberating slaves, veterans have a record of remarkable accomplishment throughout our nation’s history. Military service is not for the faint of heart. Most civilian jobs do not require risk to life or limb. No other occupation subjects its employees to criminal charges for disobeying their boss. Unlike members of the military, civilians can live where they want and can quit whenever they want.
“With transitional challenges in today’s environment – including the abysmal withdrawal from Afghanistan, the stress of military life and feelings of isolation from a war fought for twenty years with no clear outcome – all factor into a suicide rate among veterans that is averaging more than 120 veterans a day. In addition to suicides, the rate of homelessness among veterans is also on the rise.
“The stigma of seeking help needs to end. If we are going to stop suicide, it is crucial that we look at this issue much differently than prior generations. If we wait for someone to attempt suicide before we reach out, there is a very good chance that it will be too late.
“Veterans value courage and it takes courage to ask for help. We must be proactive. Ask and encourage veterans to seek help before they pass a point of no return. The bonds that we formed in the military are unlike any other. A sound veteran’s organization fosters an environment that helps continue such bonds and creates new ones.
“Very few of us are trained counselors or mental health professionals. But we are capable of listening, referring and following up. A national suicide hotline crisis line has been created. It is 9-8-8 – option 1 for veterans. Most kindergartners know what 9-1-1 is for. It’s up to us to ensure that 9-8-8 becomes just as widely known to our veterans. By calling 9-8-8 now, we can prevent a 9-1-1 call later.
“The American Legion’s motto this year is ‘Be The One.’ We want you to Be the One to ‘Save the One.’
“Homelessness is another tragic outcome that is too often connected to military service. It is estimated that America has 60,000 veterans who are homeless. That is greater than the entire population of Carson City, Nevada. Though veterans comprise approximately seven percent of the U.S. population they are 11 percent of our nations homeless.
“The best way to prevent a veteran from becoming homeless is to hire one. It’s not only good policy but it’s smart business for an employer who values skill, discipline and patriotism.
“It is fitting that Veterans Day be observed so close to Election Day. It is, after all, the veterans who have preserved our constitutional rights for the last 246 years.
“For many of our veterans, this nation was worth enduring long separations from their families, missing the births of their children, freezing in sub-zero temperatures, sweating in the Sahara, sacrificing their health and, far too often, losing their lives.
“When a politician laments the cost of a veterans’ program, it is up to us to remind them of the cost of being a veteran.
“Whether it’s exposure to burn pits or other toxin, many veterans today continue to pay a high price for their military service. It is up to us to ensure that they always have access to high quality health care and benefits reflecting the thanks of a great nation.
“One hundred and four years ago, on November 11, 1918, the guns of the world fell silent. An armistice was signed on that date and the Great War was over. Unfortunately, World War I was not the “war to end all wars,” as many had hoped.
“Veterans are not only responsible for defending this nation during time of war, but it is the imposing presence of our great military that has acted as a deterrent to would-be aggressors.
“The veterans of the United States military have not only fought our country’s conflict’s but they also deserve our gratitude for preventing them.
“And while today we rejoice and honor the service of America’s veterans, we also remember the wise words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. ‘The soldier above all other people prays for everlasting peace.’”
The event was catered by Greenbrier Grille and Sandy’s Cakes. The meal was served by the Marlinton Women’s Club and Dominion Power.