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Reflections from Veterans Day

November 18, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer (emccoy@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

Veterans Day was celebrated with grace and honor by many organizations, churches, schools and veterans associations this past weekend.

I was invited on Nov. 9, by Principal Sandra Leggett from Harrison East Elementary School in Hopedale, to a fantastic program put together by Sgt. Eric Wilson of the Harrison County Sheriff''s Department and the Hopedale American Legion.

There was a film presentation showing pictures of men and women from Harrison County who served in the military since World War II. They flashed on the screen as Mariah Carey sang "Hero."

Article Photos

GUEST SPEAKER — Bryan Felmet was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day program sponsored by the Jefferson County Veterans Association. Jack Campbell, back, left, is the veterans association chaplain, and Charles Strizak, back right, is past district 10 commander and emcee.
Esther McCoy
GUEST?SPEAKER — Bryan Felmet was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day program sponsored by the Jefferson County Veterans Association. Jack Campbell, back, left, is the veterans association chaplain, and Charles Strizak, back right, is past district 10 commander and emcee.
Esther McCoy
GUEST?SPEAKER — Bryan Felmet was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day program sponsored by the Jefferson County Veterans Association. Jack Campbell, back, left, is the veterans association chaplain, and Charles Strizak, back right, is past district 10 commander and emcee.
-- Esther McCoy

As I have said in the past, many of the soldiers looked so young. I could imagine the pain felt by their mothers as they were sent off to fight a war where no one knew who would come back.

It was touching to see young people in line shaking hands with Don Jochims, an Army veteran and commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7477. One of the pupils got a hug and a kiss from a lady to go along with the handshake. That was Peyton Roski, grandson to the Jochims. Grandma Karen managed to sneak in a little peck on the cheek.

On Nov. 10, Lamont's birthday by the way, he reminded me several times over the course of the morning hours that he promised the county veterans group that I would be out to shoot a picture of them working on the Veterans Memorial Wall at Fort Friendship.

Since he has always helped me with the Holiday Cookbook contest, and this year even proof- read recipes with me, I knew I had to go, despite the fact that I was in my housecleaning garb.

It was very heart warming to see the men laughing, teasing and working together. Mike Panepucci, who had joined the association just two days before, was put to work mixing concrete. He brought along the needed expertise of Sam Nardo, a genuine brick layer. Others on the job were Charlie Greene, Tony Phillippi, Frank Santa, Jay Kolenc, Ed Waldman and Wally Jancura.

The men bricked the back wall, but the installation of engraved bricks will not occur until in the spring. And they already have more bricks and orders than the present wall will hold. Now they are preparing for two additional wings to accommodate them.

Lamont and I were invited to the Mount Moriah Baptist Church service, getting there just in time to snap a photo of four members of the Tri-State Marine Corps Club - Dr. William Johns, Jim DiBenedetto, Richard Bradley and George Maine - along with the church pastor, John Oliver, and Larry Peebles, who were in the Army.

A wonderful turkey and ham dinner was served in honor of the veterans, and Betty Hasley brought me some delicious slices of pumpkin roll. We left clutching a sealed bag of radishes, chosen from a box of the tangy vegetable. Radishes always have a hot taste to me, but I still like them.

I was introduced to the daughter of Dave Thompson, Pam. Dave lived on a farm on the same Bradley Road as the McHugh's, and I have known him for nearly a lifetime.

Later Sunday afternoon, we cruised over to Friendship Park, where the Jefferson County Veterans were holding their annual Veterans Day tribute.

The day was warm and sunny, but I reflected back to the 2011 event, when it was held inside because the weather was so bad. Inside, it loses some of the effect of raising the large U.S. flag and those from all branches of the military as part of the program, but the message was still powerful.

While talking to Toots Waldman, Lorrie Greene, Evelyn Clouston and Esther Panepucci, I looked over to see Art Panepucci and Tony Pietrangelo engrossed in conversation while seated on the base of the scaled-down Statue of Liberty on the museum grounds. I ran over to take a shot without being seen - but was noticed. I like to take pictures when people are doing what they are doing naturally instead of looking at the camera and smiling. They went back to talking as if I were not around, and I love the picture that was taken and with this column. The guys told me they are distant cousins and have known each other for ages.

Readings by Bill Duvall always put a lump in my throat. This was about a sack lunch purchased by a caring passenger on an airplane for 10 soldiers with little money who were in flight to their air base.

Three passengers seeing what had transpired, each gave him $25 to help pay for the food, but the man turned the $75 over to one of the soldiers, telling him to buy a hot meal for all before they got to the base.

Ron Retzer did a magnificent job of handling the musical portion of the program. His singing of "God Bless the U.S.A." was very touching. All veterans at the stage area and those in the audience joined hands over their heads and sang along. For all their efforts, we are forever grateful.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)

 
 

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