GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — American Flags lined the streets downtown as the community gathered in Gallipolis City Park to honor those who have served in the military, both past and present on Veterans Day.
The day began with a parade along Second Avenue, which included representatives from the Ohio State VFW Colorguard, Gallia County Veterans Service Center, Gallipolis Shrine Club, Gallipolis Fire Department, Harrison Township Fire Department and many other organizations, along with performances from the South Gallia Marching Rebels and the Gallia Academy Band.
After the parade, service members, veterans and the community gathered by the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” statue to honor American’s veterans.
The service included prayer from veteran and Pastor John Jackson and several songs performed by the Gallia Academy Band Ensemble and Gallia Academy Madrigals.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Daniel R. Eakins, administrator Office of Policy and Veterans Programs, Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
As previously reported by Ohio Valley Publishing, Eakins is the son of a Vietnam Veteran, raised in Jefferson, Ohio. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in Washington and New York, he enlisted in the United States Army. Eakins has served as a veteran policy advocate with the state of Ohio for the last 13 years, 12 of those being with the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
“Being here reminds me a lot of being home,” Eakins said. “When I was in the service and would describe people what Ohio was like, it was places like this. I think with the Ohio River behind us, there’s no better definition of the American community than right here in Gallipolis.”
Eakins said apart from the parade in Columbus, today’s parade in Gallia County is the biggest Veterans Day parade he has witnessed in Ohio.
“I want to thank the citizens of Gallia County, Gallipolis, southeast Ohio, for your wonderful support for the armed forces in the veteran community in this region,” Eakins said. “It’s so important to make sure that we build human connections with our veteran community and you really do make it happen here.”
Looking over the crowd, Eakins said, “it’s an honor to be around folks who by such varied reasons and methods answered our nation’s call to duty.”
The legacy of veterans in Gallia County is one that Eakins said is “particularly noteworthy” with history of those serving spanning back to the American Revolution. He cited a recent survey that identified more than 2,000 veterans living in Gallia County currently.
Eakins spoke of several generations of veterans over the years who have worked to ensure no veteran is left behind in the country they fought to protect.
“They have passed on the lessons they learned in terms of advocating for legislation and programs that properly care for veterans, service members and their families through education, career opportunities and a range of other health care benefits and services,” Eakins said.
Eakins said, “never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
“Veterans have continued to lead and mentor every younger generation as we have united to improve, preserve and protect veterans benefits and services through community and political advocacy, both in Ohio and across the nation,” Eakins said. “They have taught us, we cannot turn our back on any of our comrades, for if we do not stand up for each other, who else could be expected to.”
Eakins said this is the example that has continued to inspire and motive not only himself, but his colleagues in the work they do.
“That is the legacy of service that Ohio and Gallia County’s veterans have left to future generations of Ohioans,” Eakins said. “It is a legacy that belongs to all of our uniformed service members, our citizens and our country.”
Eakins thanked veterans of all eras for their example, service and leadership, “making out community, our state and our country a home worth fighting for.”
John Thomas, executive director Veterans Service Office, introduced current commanders of local affiliate groups. These include Bill Mangus, VFW Post 4464; Michael Geise, American Legion Post 27; Bob McCarley, American Legion Post 161; Keith Jeffers, DAV/AMVETS; Larry Marr, Vietnam Veterans of America; Jim Doss, Marine Corp League and James Oiler, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
The service concluded with a rifle firing by the VFW Color Guard and the playing of Taps by the Gallia Academy High School Band Buglers.
(Editor’s note: More on Thursday’s parade and Veterans Day ceremonies in both Mason and Meigs counties, in the weekend editions.)
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.