Plain City honors vets
By Fran Odyniec
For The Plain City Advocate
One-hundred-seventy-five students had front row seats this past Monday morning as they gathered in a huge semi-circle before the podium set up in the Plain City Elementary School gymnasium.
They and village residents seated on bleachers had come to the elementary school for Plain City’s annual observance of Veterans Day sponsored by Plain City VFW Darby Post 3268 and American Legion Post 248. The Jonathan Alder Marching Band, under the direction of Paul Bruner, furnished musical accompaniment; Tammy Carlson sang the National Anthem; and representatives from the Young Marines in Plain City handed out souvenir American flags.
Monday marked a change in the traditional venue for the event which had been held outdoors before the huge American flag mural on the wall of the Masonic Lodge at Main and Chillicothe streets in downtown Plain City.
Lt. Col. Holly C. Mitchell, of the Ohio Air National Guard, was keynote speaker.
“Veterans are the fabric from which our flag has been woven,” Mitchell told her audience which included about 25 veterans. “Whether they wear the military uniform today, or wore it decades ago, veterans represent an unwavering dedication and exemplify the highest ideals of service to our nation.”
Mitchell pointed out that Airmen defend America through continuous air sovereignty, space, cyber and nuclear deterrence missions. She also said that Airmen work with NATO allies and battle wildfires, hurricanes, and other severe weather in the United Stares including disaster relief to those who have experienced the devastation of super storm Sandy on the East Coast.
Mitchell brought attention to the servicemen and women who are deployed to today’s trouble spots around the world, specifically the Middle East.
“It is our responsibility to honor those who return home,” she said, “especially our wounded warriors. And, we must never forget those who paid for our freedom with the ultimate sacrifice.
“We must also honor the families of our veterans, who sacrifice in their own, often uncelebrated ways.”
“All military members have heeded the call, and responded to the cries of the world,” she said. “To our veterans — our servicemen of all ages — who have engaged in combat, stability, and humanitarian operations — we honor you,” Mitchell continued. “To those servicemen who paid the ultimate price or who are still missing or unaccounted for — we honor you by remembering the sacrifices you and your families made for our great nation.”
“Today is a day of honor and a day to honor,” Mitchell concluded.
Bernie Vance, commander of Plain City VFW Darby Post 3268 and first vice commander of Plan City American Legion Post 248, serving as master of ceremonies, as the gymnasium clock ticked toward one minute before eleven, asked the audience to rise in a moment of silence to honor America’s veterans.
“Let’s pause for a moment of silence and remember why we’re here,” Vance said.
The Alder band followed the moment of silence with a memorable offering of “America” (“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”). A number of those in attendance were observed dabbing their eyes as the band concluded the piece.
Vance closed out the observance with a reminder for the audience.
“Our responsibility is to insure our children and grandchildren appreciate the sacrifices of those serving our country, and never let them forget it,” he said. “We’re looking for heroes in the wrong places. Today’s heroes are fighting for peace.”
After the observance, Lt. Col. Mitchell commented on the fourth-graders in attendance, of whom she felt that the observance more than held their attention.
“I’m hoping the children were inspired and have a better understanding,” Mitchell said. “An understanding of what this day is all about and an understanding of how and why our country has remained free.”
Two of the fourth-graders, Abbey Watkins and Gavin Heimlich, had reached their own conclusions.
“It made me feel grateful for the veterans who died and all those things they did for us,” said Watkins of the fourth grade’s participation. “I feel kind of sad for them and grateful for what they did.”
Heimlich said of veterans and the active military, “They’re being brave and they’re risk takers. They’re doing it for freedom, our country, and they’re doing it for me and Abbey.”
Kelly Hicks, principal of the Plain City Elementary School, who worked with the Plain City VFW and the American Legion to bring the observance to the school, was proud that the observance could be held there.
“Anytime we can get folks from the American Legion and VFW to share their time with our children, it’s wonderful,” Hicks said.
Having taught social studies and history for 17 years, Hicks said that the Veterans Day observance brings a realistic perspective to her students.
“These kids are very fortunate,” she said. “They haven’t grown up in a country where there is war all the time compared to children in the Middle East.
She added that she hopes her students continue to build a respect for the sacrifices service personnel make so that they can enjoy freedom.
Retired U.S. Army CWO Douglas Weakley sounded Taps which brought the observance to an end.