Park’s serenity and history a natural fit for vets event

Messenger photos by Josephine Birdsell
Christopher Ludwig, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, stands on the deck of the Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park nature center, looking out at the park’s bison herd in the field below.

(Posted Nov. 14, 2019)

By Josephine Birdsell, Staff Writer

Jim Large stood on the deck of the nature center at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, overlooking a field where bison roamed. Other veterans gathered alongside him.

Large lives in Galloway and visits the park often. But this visit was a little different.

On Veteran’s Day, the park’s staffers honored military veterans with a flag ceremony, free breakfast social and program on the park’s bison herd. This was the park’s first ever Veteran’s Day event.

Large appreciated the effort, especially because he feels his service hasn’t always been honored.

Large served in the Vietnam war. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1970 and served for three years. After a short time off, he went back into the military and served another 10 years as a staff sergeant.

He said that when he returned home from Vietnam, he received a lot of hostility for being a veteran.

James Thomas (left), a park ranger and retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, and Jordan Lytle, a park ranger who served two tours of duty as a petty officer 3rd class in the U.S. Navy, participate in a flag ceremony at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park’s Veteran’s Day event.

“It was rough when we came back because you didn’t want to be a veteran, because we were looked at as the bad guys,” Large said.

Only in the past few years, he said, has he felt greater acceptance for his service.

“I think it means everything (to be a veteran),” he said.

Large was the inspiration for Battelle Darby Creek’s Veteran’s Day event, said Kevin Kasnyik, park manager.

“(Large) walks in the park every day … We see him every day. When we raise the flag up, he always steps up and salutes it,” Kasnyik said.

The park staff plans to hold a Veteran’s Day program every year, though the format may change from year to year.

This year’s breakfast and bison walk was a good way to honor both veterans and the park’s military history, said James Thomas, a park ranger and retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel.

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park was founded on land given to Revolutionary War veterans as payment for their service, Thomas said.

“This (park) was payback for the veterans back then,” Thomas said. “Now, I see our veterans out here, coming to enjoy the park, and I think that’s another way (the park) gives back to the veterans … (they) have a place they can come and enjoy the nature and the woods just as it was.”

Each veteran and veteran’s family member who attended Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park’s inaugural Veteran’s Day event received a pin featuring a bison and the American flag.

Time in the park can be calming for veterans, said Christopher Ludwig, a Reynoldsburg resident who served in artillery and force reconnaissance in the Marine Corps for five years during Desert Storm.

Being in nature reminds him of his service and helps him to relax, he said. And for him, Veteran’s Day is mostly about connecting with and remembering veterans.

Part of the reason Large attended was to meet other veterans, he said.

Ludwig said that after the breakfast, he planned to call his friends from the service to check in on them and ask about their lives and families, something he does often.

“In the Marine Corps, the brotherhood is deep. I don’t see my guys from my unit as much as I used to, but on any given day we can pick up a phone and it’ll be like it’s where we left off the last time we talked,” he said. “We’ve made bonds that’ll never be broken.”

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