Follansbee remembers our vets

FOLLANSBEE – The many men and women who lost their lives, as well as those who remain missing, were remembered at the Memorial Day service held Monday outside American Legion Post 45.

As mayor emeritus, a title bestowed upon him by Follansbee Council, Tony Paesano served as master of ceremonies, telling everyone the holiday serves as a reminder of the many veterans who have put their lives on the line for their country, but especially of those who lost their lives while serving.

Paesano read “In Flanders Field,” and told those attending, “America is strong and free, but we would never have come this far without the heroes we call veterans.”

The city’s services have been coordinated for many years by the post and the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad.

Post 45 Commander Bill Haught recognized the squad for delivering military honors at the funerals of more than 600 area veterans throughout the year and in all kinds of weather. Haught said the deceased veterans are most deserving of the tributes paid to them by the squad.

Also participating in the service were Brent Kimball, a Brooke High School senior who performed the national anthem and “God Bless the USA,” and representatives of groups who placed wreaths at the monument in honor of fallen veterans.

Haught also remembered the many service members who are missing in action.

With the help of Lenny Baldauf, adjutant for the post, he explained the symbols found at a small table displayed near the post’s veterans monuments. The symbols included the empty chair and inverted glass, both reminders of the missing veteran’s absence; a red rose, representing the blood they have shed; and a plate with a lemon representing the bitterness felt by those at home or awaiting their return.

Prior to the service, Baldauf said respect for all veterans has increased since he was a young soldier returning from the Vietnam War.

“Since (the 2001 terrorist attacks on Sept. 11), it seems like people are gangbusters for veterans,” he said, recalling that after flying home and while making his way through the airport, he “heard people saying smart things.”

He was awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star after he sustained a shrapnel wound to his arm. Baldauf explained he was among about a dozen working to secure a strategic hilltop when a hand grenade was thrown at them, wounding him and several others.

“I’ve got about a quarter of the muscle missing from my right arm – enough to send me home,” he said.

Before that, he was among soldiers who exchanged gunfire with North Vietnamese troops and locally recruited guerrillas known as the Viet Cong while attempting to secure hilltops from which U.S. and other troops hoped to defend South Vietnam against Communist invasion.

Baldauf now is fighting a different battle, against cancer.

“I’m on chemo now. I go one day at a time,” he said, adding, “The VA (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs) has treated me really well.”

While many who served in Vietnam were drafted, Baldauf enlisted in a delayed entry program while in high school.

Asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “Would I do it again? Probably.”