SMITHFIELD - The long-awaited Wall of Honor dedication was witnessed by a crowd of about 200 at the Fort Friendship Memorial Museum Monday during a Veterans Day program presented by the Jefferson County Veterans Association.
While the wind blew and the temperature dropped, those present huddled into their parkas or stadium blankets and saw an impressive raising of seven flags, representing all branches of the military and POWs/MIAs, while appropriate music for each branch of service was played by Walter Jancura Jr. Frank Santa, vice commander, introduced the military branches and served as master of ceremonies.
Commander Bill Smythe thanked all who came out for the historic event and the observance of Veterans Day. "Thank you for serving my country. This is your day. Thank you for your hard work, loyalty and perseverance. We would not be where we are today without our veterans," he said.
WALL DEDICATED — Jay Kolenc, sergeant-at-arms, left, and William Smythe, commander of the Jefferson County Veterans Association, laid a memorial wreath at the Wall of Honor at the Fort Friendship Museum as part of Monday’s Veterans Day program. - Esther McCoy
Smythe introduced Charles Greene and presented him with a veteran of the year award for this devotion to planning, working and preparing the Wall of Honor for its dedication. He presented him with a plaque for his devotion to the group and for bringing the wall almost to completion, with about 150 bricks left to be placed .
"My brother, Paul, had the inspiration for the Wall of Honor and we had the cooperation of many," he said.
Sgt. Jack Ernest, a veteran of the Vietnam War who was injured on July 24, 1967, received the Purple Heart, two Presidential Citations, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Jefferson County Veteran of the Year award in 2007, to name a few of his citations. He told the audience that any time he has an opportunity to spend time with our veterans is a good day.
"I salute veterans past, present, old and young. You answered the call and defended our freedom at all costs," he told veterans in the crowd. "Twenty million veterans in America answered the call to serve, honor and protect what the flag stands for. Their lives were put on hold to defend the red, white and blue," he said.
"We can never afford to lose our love for our country. So many are quick to desecrate it and forget who served, were wounded physically or emotionally or died for their country. They fought or are fighting so we can say that we are the land of the free and the home of the brave. Stop looking at the back of a jersey for inspiration, but the chest of a veteran," he concluded.
The group moved over to the Wall of Honor that has been in the planning or building stage since Aug. 4, 2010.
"Through much prayer and great leadership we worked to bring the wall to a completion," Paul Greene, an original planner of the project said.
He said that 451 names of those who honorably served are inscribed in bricks and on the wall. He added that the county veterans group was taking orders for the final bricks that will be affixed to the wall later.
Danice Ryan and Susan Guy of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a memorial wreath at the wall, along with Jay Kolenc and Smythe, who represented the county veterans.
Ernest gave the the dedication speech, saying that the dream for the museum of past military equipment was started by Eugene Omaits, Fred McGee and Ed Waldman, Korean War veterans who had traveled to Washington, D.C.
"They dared to dream, carried out their dream and the museum was dedicated by a flyover on April 22, 1999," he said.
Smythe said there were many sponsors for the wall and there is a plaque in the Jefferson County Fairboard Kitchen honoring all who gave to the cause and refreshments were served by the fair committee to end the day.