POMEROY — “Today we honor those who did not return to trade the title soldier for veteran,” began United States Air Force veteran George Hoffman.
Hoffman was the guest speaker during Post #39’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday in Pomeroy. He said with over 82,000 soldiers still missing since World War II, “it is our duty to never stop looking.”
“However they found their way to the military, whether they took it upon themselves to enlist or whether they were drafted, they speak to us. If you listen quietly you can hear them, you can hear their legacy, it is we, gathered in free society to honor them. They made the freedom for others possible.”
Hoffman gave several personal examples he witnessed of bravery and sacrifice in Vietnam. After reading a list of names of some of the people killed in action from Meigs County, he said, “Soldiers are not exclusive to any gender, race, religion…all believed America as a nation was worth dying for. Wherever they served we say thank you for the freedom you have given us.”
Hoffman then addressed members of the Gold Star families in attendance when he said,” What makes the military great are the people. You are members of a group that no one wants to join; it is a membership that is forced upon you. Your loved one made the ultimate sacrifice.”
According to the U.S. Department of Defense website, Gold Star Lapel Buttons are given to immediate family members in recognition of a fallen member of the military. Spouses, parents and children of service members killed in the line of duty wear the pins, featuring a gold star on a purple circular background.
The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag first flown by families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member “serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces were engaged.“ If that loved one died, a gold star replaced the blue star.
Hoffman encouraged everyone to say thank you any time they can, “What we can do is because of them. We need to instill a value on a veteran’s life, their blood, to come out and say thank you any time we possibly can. Their sacrifice allows us to be part of this freedom we all enjoy.”
Hoffman served at Lackland and Forbes Air Force Bases in Kansas, with the 838 Combat Support Group, 838 Transportation Squadron in Thailand, 8th Combat Support Group, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in Vietnam and at Travis AFB as an administrative specialist, security Police Augmentee, and FLAG missions in southeast Asia.
Post Commander John Hood welcomed everyone to the services that opened with the Flag Raising ceremony. He introduced the Southern High School Band which preformed the “Star Spangled Banner” and selections of patriotic music throughout the ceremony under the direction of Chad Dodson.
The traditional reading of “In Flanders Fields” by Gladys Cummings brought a hush to the crowd. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the moving poem after witnessing his friend and former student die on a battlefield in World War I.
World War II veteran and Post #39 Chaplin gave the invocation and benediction, and also a reading of “This Old Flag.”
Post Commander John Hood recognized outgoing Southern High School Band Director Chad Dodson for his participation in many of the Post’s ceremonies over the past years.
“You have done a great service for us,” Hood said. “You have brought these kids out to so many of our ceremonies, you have instilled in them the value of honoring our veterans and of community service. We wish you well in your new endeavor and want you to know how much you have been appreciated and how much you will be missed.”
Dodson said he was glad for the opportunity for his students to participate in the ceremonies.
“What you do for our veterans is wonderful. I’m just glad the band and I could be a part of it. I will miss all of you too, very much.”
The ceremony overlooking the Ohio River ended with the laying of a memorial wreath into the water by Jim Stewart in honor of all those lost at sea. As the wreath floated away, “Taps” played by Southern band member Kalandra Nero could be heard in the background.
Memorial Day ceremonies did not begin or end for Meigs County American Legion Posts #602, #39, and #128 with their primary ceremonies on Monday.
The American Legion placed over 5,000 flags on the graves of veterans in Meigs in the weeks before Memorial Day according to Racine Post #602 Commander Kevin Wilford.
Chuck Mugrage shared that his group of Legionnaires placed flags at 30 cemeteries in Sutton and Carmel Townships.
American Legion Feeney-Bennett Post #128 in Middleport held ceremonies in the morning beginning at the levee with the laying a wreath in the water in honor of veterans lost at sea. They continued on to several cemeteries including Middleport Riverview, Bradford, Middleport Hill, Addison, Cheshire, Middleport Gravel Hill before stopping at Stewart-Bennett Park Middleport for their main ceremony. After the ceremony they continued onto Howell Hill Cemetery. Their day concluded at the 128th Memorial Day Service at Burlingham Church with the Honor Guard performing the military tribute at the cemetery.
In addition to the ceremony in Pomeroy at the levee, American Legion Drew Webster Post #39 held services at Rocksprings, Beech Grove, Sacred Heart, Chester and Hemlock Grove Cemeteries.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.