LIMA — About 100 veterans, families and friends gathered at American Legion Post 96 for a Veterans Day and wreath-laying ceremony Sunday.
“No matter whether they are alive or have been killed in battle, this is the day that we need to express our appreciation for every veteran that has served,” said Allen County Coroner Dr. Gary Beasley, a veteran and keynote speaker at the event.
Veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, among others, were all represented there.
Each organization, including the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Disabled Veterans, the Allen County Veterans Service Commission and Blue Star Mothers of Lima took turns coming up to the front of the room where a model grave was set inside the building. Each saluted before and after setting a wreath at the grave, usually stoic throughout.
“Being a veteran, I look around this room and I see people who could tell stories that you would never ever want to hear,” Beasley said. “Both horrible and very enlightening and also very funny.”
Beasley has served in multiple military branches, and he credits his service for giving him direction in his life. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy after a year at Kent State University, where he admitted to doing a lot of partying and having a 1.9 GPA by the end of that school year.
“I was an 18-year-old, and I thought I knew the world,” he said.
In Vietnam, he was a U.S. Navy corpsmen who served as medical personnel under the Marine battalion, picking up injured Marines in battle and taking them to medical centers. After returning from Vietnam, he said he returned to school and graduated with a 3.5 GPA, even with his first-year average. Years later, he became a flight surgeon for the U.S. Air Force during Operation Desert Storm.
“Hopefully there would be no wars, but if you put two people on this planet, you’re going to have conflict eventually,” Beasley said.
“You’ve got to remember what people sacrificed for freedom,” said George Downing, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275. “So did their families. Veterans are people you don’t forget.”
Rick Conaway, a Vietnam War veteran with the American Legion, agreed.
“Without these veterans throughout all the wars, we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we have,” Conaway said.
For Aimee Shipley, while she herself did not serve, she said it’s important to thank veterans, and wants to teach her 5-year-old daughter Kendra the same.
“We’re free because of them,” she said.