LIMA — “Guard zealously your right to serve in the armed forces. For without them, there will be no one to fight darkness.”
During the American Legion Post 96’s annual Placement of the Wreaths ceremony for Veterans Day, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, used the above quote from President John F. Kennedy to highlight the role the armed forces have played in maintaining American ideals.
Jordan acted as the special guest during the formal celebration, and he used his short time at the podium to espouse the American ideals of faith, freedom and family through the story of Scott O’Grady, who was shot down while flying a combat mission over Bosnia.
O’Grady spent six days behind enemy lines in 1995 before being rescued by U.S. Marines. In televised appearances after returning home, O’Grady gave thanks to the men and women in the armed forces, especially those who rescued him after he was shot down.
“The greatest gift that anyone could ever give me would be to if you know anybody who ever served their country in NATO or UN or United States of America, or if they’re serving right now is to go up to them and thank them for what they’re doing to make this world a better place,” O’Grady said while being honored by President Bill Clinton back in 1995.
O’Grady’s appeal was a relevant one for today’s celebration, and his message was echoed by a number of other speakers at Monday’s event.
“All the members of our families, neighbors, community members, all who have been of service should be thanked sincerely for the service that has been provided,” Lima Mayor David Berger said at the event.
Berger also presented a city proclamation during the ceremony celebrating the meaning behind Veterans Day.
There were similar celebrations throughout the region Monday, including one at Elida Middle School, at the Veterans Freedom Flag Monument in Shawnee Township and at Heritage Elementary in Lima. During a wreath-laying ceremony at Ohio Northern University’s Presser Hall, U.S. Army veteran Daus Hempker spoke about his sacrifices, including suffering wounds from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in southern Afghanistan in 2010.
Other highlights of the ceremony included the eulogy of the flag by VFW Post 1275 Chaplain Richard Coon, a volley of three rifle shots by the VFW Post 1275 Firing Squard, the performance of “Taps” by John Montgomery and a short yet passionate benediction by Chaplain Richard Rakay, who used his time to talk about the importance of sacrifice.
“It’s this idea, that there were men and women who walked beside us, who paid the ultimate sacrifice on the field, not just so that we could honor them in their death, but so that we could live a life for them that didn’t have a chance to live a life of freedom,” Rakay said.
Former Post Commander Robert Moreland said the American Legion holds the event every year to honor veterans past and present.
“We try to get more and more people to, you know, to understand what the veterans did for them,” he said. “And then we try to do this little ceremony here to let them understand we’re doing it for the fallen and the ones are still active.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.