The cost of freedom was not forgotten in Summit on Veterans Day as a crowd of young and old alike gathered at the Boyd County War Memorial to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, as well as those who continue to serve.
Battling the sound of passing traffic after a P.A. system failure, Cannonsburg Optimist Club President Eulas Crace introduced a string of guest speakers, starting with historian and canon manufacturer Marshall Steen. Citing the number of Americans who perished during the American Civil War, Steen reminded the audience that no person living today can truly appreciate the sacrifices made during the only war on American soil.
“All of this did not come without a price,” Steen said.
Raising his voice above the sound of traffic, Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society President and curator of military collections for Highlands Museum & Discovery Center Matt Potter said those who serve in America’s military “sign a blank check” with a promise of payment “up to their own life” so that others will be able to live free. Potter also cited his friendship with the late Arnold Litteral, a Marine Corps veteran whose experiences during World War II included liberation of three concentration camps. Despite the impact the war had upon him, Potter said Litteral believed in telling his story so others would not forget what he and others witnessed.
Potter also encouraged veterans who attended the Monday morning ceremony to share their stories, and have their memories recorded at Highlands Museum before there is no more time and people can forget. “That’s something that none of us here would like to see,” Potter said.
Ashland School Superintendent Steve Gilmore encouraged the crowd to remember veterans every day, and to say “Thank You,” when met in an airport or a shopping mall. Fairview Superintendent Bill Musick told the crowd he served as a basketball coach and principal to Joey Cantrell, one of two Boyd County soldiers killed in action whose names have not yet been added to the local war memorial. Musick said America’s veterans, including those in his own family, are his heroes far beyond any rock star or television celebrity. Jerry Foster of Rose Hill Christian School also offered his thanks to local veterans.
Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles noted many of the names on the wall at the war memorial were people who called Ashland their home. While many tend to think of America’s veterans as those who died or fought in foreign lands, Charles asked each in the audience to “search out a veteran today and personally thank them.” Guest speaker Ramona Ramsey, governor for Kentucky/West Virginia Optimists International, also urged the audience to seek out veterans, shake their hand and offer thanks.
“You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes in their life,” she said.
Ernie Steele of Whayne Supply Company, whose employees refurbished the Vietnam-era “Scorpion” at the war memorial, provided some history about the mechanized artillery unit which many refer to as a tank, and called out Eulas Hayes for a moment of applause in recognition of his tireless efforts at the Boyd County War Memorial. State Rep. Kevin Sinnette added his personal praise for Hayes as well, before reminding the crowd that each person whose name is on the memorial wall was a member of someone’s family “fighting for something they believed in.”
Building upon Sinnette’s comments, Rep. Rocky Adkins spoke directly to the younger members of the audience, including members of the Boyd County High School marching band, encouraging each to appreciate this nation.
“Freedom, hope and opportunity — take advantage of it. Don’t waste it. It wasn’t handed out or given, it was earned through the sacrifice of veterans whose names are on this wall or who are standing here today,” Adkins said.
Members of the BCHS band performed the official anthem of each branch of the nation’s military, causing a visible reaction from Army Air Corps veteran Bob Hart, who served as a bombardier during World War II. After a performance of TAPS to bring the ceremony to a close, each member of the marching band, including Hart’s granddaughter Chloe Hart, formed a line to Hart and took turns shaking his hand and expressing their grattitude for his service.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.