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Thank you, veterans, for your service

May 27, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

I don't think that there are coincidences.

I think things are meant to be, that they happen for a reason and even that what ends up in this column space from week to week is no accident although many are the Wednesday evenings, I kid you not, when I stare at my laptop and think, great ooga-muh-googa, as my dad's expression went, what am I going to write about now?

But holidays generally bring built-in themes and warrant writing space.

If it's Christmas, for example, you write about Christmas.

If it's Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

If it's Mother's Day or Father's Day, guess what your topic is? Bingo. Your parents.

So if it's the Memorial Day holiday weekend, duhhh, you write about Memorial Day.

And that was already my intent because the older I get, the more Memorial Day means to me, the more easily that lump forms in my throat and the mist in my eyes when I hear taps played during Richmond's Memorial Day ceremony and watch the Richmond American Legion Post 740 Honored Seven color guard come marching down Main Street, their numbers dwindling.

But the intent to write about Memorial Day was a decision solidified when I ran into Linda Irvine McConnell of Richmond on Wednesday - no coincidence - and she looked at me and said, "I have something for you."

Again, no coincidence.

From her purse in her car she presented me with a letter written by my dad, the late Jay W. "Pidge" Hout - to her dad, the late Jim Irvine.

The letter was dated Jan. 12, 1943, mailed from San Antonio, Texas, from "Pvt. Jay W. Hout 35393451."

What an unexpected treasure to capture a little insight into my dad's military life through a from-a-friend, to-a-friend letter laced with news, humor, questions and commentary.

During World War II, my dad was in the Army, ultimately in Italy and North Africa as part of a railroad battalion. That's really about all I know of his military experience because I never got around to really asking him. Some reporter, huh? I've since come across pictures of the 20-something Army version of my dad, a good-looking fellow who was no wallflower lacking for female companionship as this letter suggested.

In later years my dad was the Richmond Legion commander, involved in Memorial Day preparations that included placing flags on veterans' graves and serving as master of ceremonies at the cemetery service. It was a weekend not to sit idle and care not.

I watched that scenario play out from year to year, realizing at an early age that Memorial Day was not just another Monday on the May calendar.

It was a day to celebrate those who served.

It was a day to remember and appreciate their sacrifice.

And it was a day to embrace anew this privilege we call freedom.

I can assure you that indeed I do, and that is no coincidence.

To all veterans, those here and gone on to glory, I say thank you for your service.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at

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