MANSFIELD — The melancholy melody of Taps echoed through Central Park Saturday, as a small crowd stood in silent reverence of military members who paid the ultimate price.
Bruce Phipps thanked all those in attendance for braving the frigid temperatures to attend Saturday’s Veterans Day parade and ceremony. Many of those in attendance were veterans themselves.
“I want to thank all the veterans,” said Phipps, Commander of the Richland County Joint Veterans Council. “Because of you, that’s why we live in a free country here today.”
According to Phipps, more than 82,000 members of the military who have served since World War II remain missing in action or prisoners of war. Before handing over the microphone, he encouraged the audience to remember them as well.
Saturday’s ceremony included four speakers, all local retired military personnel.
Debra Robinson shared that there are currently 7,728 male veterans and 873 female veterans living in Richland County.
“It’s been a privilege and an honor for me to pay a very small sacrifice to help preserve our freedoms that we have today,” said Robinson, a 27-year active guard reserve member who retired as a chief master sergeant and Supt. of Finance at the 179th Airlift Wing.
Larry Corn served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps for two years. After that, he spent 25 years as a full-time military technician in the Ohio Army National Guard, which included deployment to the Persian Gulf as a procurement officer for a transportation battalion.
Corn urged Americans to go beyond a simple ‘thank you’ and truly honor our country’s veterans.
“Today there’s more than 18 million living American veterans from all the branches of the service,” he said.
“We celebrate today because of your patriotism, love for your country, service to your country and your comrades and service to those on the four corners of the earth.”
Navy Seabee veteran Larry Moore shared a brief monologue on what it really means to be a veteran.
“Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in their eye,” said Moore, a Vietnam veteran.
“Others may carry the evidence inside them — a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in a leg.
“Some wounds are apparent, while others like PTSD remain invisible,” he continued. “But know this — no one leaves war unwounded.”
“Being a veteran means you are willing to give everything and expect nothing in exchange. It means that you volunteer to serve so others have a choice — a choice to say what they think, to worship as they choose, to be what you want to be, the choice to live where you want to live.”
Moore said being a veteran is being a part of community, even with people you don’t know.
“It means seeing a fellow veteran in a store, on the street, in a park or in a hospital room and instantly having an unshakable bond with that individual,” Moore explained.
“Veterans know the cost of war. It comes with a first name, last name, a middle initial and parents,” he concluded. “I consider it my honor to have served our country. My time in uniform is over, but being a veteran never ends.”
Douglas Theaker, who served two years in the U.S. Navy Ready Reserve and two more in the Navy, told the crowd he was not ashamed of the deep pride he felt for his nation.
“I’m still one of those very, very patriotic people,” he said. “I’m one of those veterans individually who still has the warm tear rolling down my cheek every time I see this great flag of America — Old Glory.”
“We are still the greatest nation in the world,” he added. “We are there because of you and the sacrifices that you were willing to make.”
Saturday’s Veterans Day Ceremony was presented by the Richland County Joint Veterans Council, which help veterans and their families apply for any federal, state, and local benefits for which they may be eligible. For more information, visit the council’s website, call 419-774-5822 or visit the office at 597 Park Avenue East in Mansfield, weekdays from 8:30 to 4:30.