By Sarah Slayman
Canal Winchester filled with veterans and their families on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, as civilians recognized and celebrated their service.
The day began with a complimentary pancake breakfast hosted by volunteers from Canal Winchester Senior Citizens Club in the Community Center. The family of the late Fred Bivens, U.S. Air Force veteran and long-time club member, conducted all food arrangements. Families mingled, shared names, and celebrated reunions. A strong sense of reverent comradery could be noted in the room.
The parade began at 10 a.m. along the city’s flag-lined downtown streets. Boy Scouts lead the way with veterans carrying flags and rifles following behind. Motts Military Museum provided military vehicles that carried veterans
One woman thanked each veteran who passed her and others cheered. The sound of Canal Winchester High School Marching Band carried over the town.
The crowd settled at Stradley Place for the ceremony. Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert told the veterans, “Through your service, our great nation maintained its freedom.”
The ceremony’s keynote speaker Chaplain, Lt. Col. Joseph Branch of the United States Air Force posed the question, “Why do we celebrate this day?” He said freedom is not free, but how we retain that freedom is not something many like to speak of. He recalled his experience as a young boy, confused as to why his uncle wouldn’t comment on his time in the service. He discovered honorable awards that were tucked away, undisplayed, and wondered why. He now knows it was too painful and too gruesome for his uncle to choose to remember or recount. With age, he fears now that the true understanding or respect for the service given will be lost as few share their stories. In compassion he asked veterans to share of their time and for civilians to ask about it.
“Those who have never worn a uniform will never understand how so many of us have changed – I know sometimes the stories may be painful, but if you never speak of them, they will never understand why,” said Branch. “We must never turn our backs on those who proclaim and carry the flag. Simply say, ‘thank you.’”
The ceremony closed with a 21 gun salute conducted by the VFW Post #10523 and the playing of, “Taps.”
Tom Richards, a 1959-68 member of the U.S. Air Force, remarked what an honor it was to grow up with the military community and recognized how it seemed to have raised him. He said he is proud to be a part of this nation and demonstrated his pride in saying, “This country is something else. I’m so thankful.”