Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 8, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: ‘Greatest Generation’ soldiers worthy of salute

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — I was part of last week’s trip to Washington, D.C., with the Ashland School Safety Patrol. I’ve gone seven or eight times now and strongly support the effort put forth by Maj. Mark McDowell and the Ashland Police Department. Kudos to them for another job well done.

It’s an educational experience supreme for all involved and one of the most organized trips anyone could ever enjoy. They have a contingency plan for the contigency plan and anything else that happens, which makes it smooth sailing for the rest of us.

Even though we do see much of the same things every year, each year is always different in some way.

This time one of the differences was at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on our last day.

If you have been there and watched this moving ceremony, you will be touched forever. (It’s on YouTube, but there’s nothing quite like being there). All of our school patrol groups take the time to watch, but this year, at least while we were there, 23 World War II veterans were with us. They were seated together in a partitioned area across from the main stands. Some came up in wheelchairs, some with walkers and others with help from loved ones. But they all stood proudly during the ceremony, saluting their fallen brothers in arms.

Looking into the faces of “The Greatest Generation” makes you proud to be an American, I can tell you that.

A few days later, I was fortunate to speak for about an hour on the telephone with Paul DeHart Sr., a member of “The Greatest Generation” and Ashland’s 1942 football state championship team. Mr. DeHart and J.C. Kennard, who would join the Marines the year after him, had their own special reunion in Columbus, thanks to their sons of the same names last week.

I call him Mr. DeHart out of complete respect for what he did in serving our country. He was in the service for 33 months, including the last battle at Okinawa. Before he was a military hero he was a Tomcat hero, playing halfback on a “scrawny, scrappy team” that went undefeated.

He played his junior season at Ashland, when the Tomcats went 10-0 in 1942, and on May 8, 1943, joined the Marines after turning 18. Another classmate and teammate, Vernon Dessinger, did the same thing. John McGill, a former sports editor at the Ashland Daily Independent, wrote about the departure of these two great players and put it under a banner headline in the sports section. Both would have been eligible to play in 1943, so the country’s gain would be the Tomcats’ loss.

Tomcat Coach Charles Ramey, who also left for the Marines following the 1942 season and had a highly decorated military career, had hoped DeHart and Dessinger could have their deployments delayed and play that fall at Ashland.

But the war was already calling their names, as it did so many of that day. Mr. DeHart was stationed at Pearl Harbor for a time after the Japanese attack. Before he went overseas and while in basic training in California, he was involved in two accidents on back-to-back weekends. They were both traumatic, he said, but neither life-threatening. Eventually he saw action in the Pacific Theater and served his country with pride. By doing that, he also did his hometown of Ashland proud.

Here is one more salute to Mr. DeHart and other members of “The Greatest Generation.” Thank you for your service. You are not forgotten.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.