Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps commander Rick Wooddell welcomed nearly 200 area veterans and their guests with a message from the Headquarters of the American Legion as they gathered for the annual Veterans Dinner Saturday in the Pocahontas County Opera House.
“This year we observe one hundred years since our participation in the first World War and fifty years ago, our participation in Vietnam,” he said. “Quite a contrast in our country’s history. One hundred years ago our men were sent off with ‘comforting kits’ and welcomed home as heroes after victory in Europe over the Kaiser’s armies. The reason for our gathering here today is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – Armistice Day has it was originally known and changed to Veterans Day by Congress in 1954.”
Wooddell contrasted the difference in the homecomings of soldiers from World War I and World War II with those returning from Vietnam.
“Fifty years ago, however, gratitude was in short supply among many segments of the American public,” he said. “Heroes returned from Vietnam and were discouraged from wearing their uniforms in public places due to the disrespectful actions of some protestors and others who disagreed with policies that were set by our elected officials. Too often the protestors failed to realize that it was not the campus agitator who ensured our First Amendment rights. It was the military veteran.”
As all veterans do, the Vietnam veterans continue to hold their heads high and remember the sacrifices they made for their country. Wooddell shared a quote from veteran James McCloughan when he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump.
“He said, ‘I shall do my best to represent those men as the caretaker of this symbol of courage and action beyond the call of duty,’” Wooddell said. “That’s what veterans do. They put others first. Today is Veterans Day. It is the day that we put Veterans first.
“Veterans Day is a time to honor not just those who have fought for us in battle, but in fact, all of the outstanding men and women who served in our nations Armed Forces since our founding more than two hundred, forty-one years ago.”
After the meal, Wooddell recognized the county’s veterans, including three World War II veterans – Harold Crist, Herman Butcher and Dick Hiner.
He also recognized members of each branch of the military – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as the spouses of service members.
Wooddell honored the memory of four members of the Honor Corps who passed away this year – Dick Reigel, George Behrens and Ben Raugh; and recognized each member’s companion – Henrietta Reigel, Barbara Crist and Linda Raugh.
The dinner was sponsored by Dominion Energy, Marlinton Woman’s Club and Pocahontas County Senior Citizens.