MANSFIELD ─ Jack Cowell is proud to say he fought for his country.
The 96-year-old was the representative of the World War II veterans at Monday's Memorial Day festitivites in Mansfield. Cowell said he joined the Navy when he was 19, and was stationed in the Philippines among many other islands in the Pacific Ocean.
“I prayed a lot … because you never know what’s going to happen,” the veteran said of his time in the service.
When coming home, Cowell kept what happened during the war to himself as many veterans did. He said he told his children he has done some bad things and doesn’t like to talk about it.
But now, he lets it all out. As time passes, he said he can recognize what he did for his country and its people. He appreciated the opportunity of being honored on Memorial Day.
The program began with a ceremony from American Legion Post 16 honoring World War I veterans. The Memorial Day parade stepped off at 10:30 a.m. and traveled down Park Avenue West to Central Park.
More than 20 units participated in the parade, including the Korean War Chapter 51 Color Guard and 40 Et 8 Boxcar. While no school marching bands joined the event this year, hundreds of people gathered on Park Avenue to take in the parade.
Ann Robinson and Patrice Anderson of Run Warriors, a local runners’ group, were among the crowd. The duo ran from the North Lake Park to downtown as their way to mark the day.
Robinson said it took them about 15 minutes to finish the run. It was their first time to run on Memorial Day. She said they would like to continue doing it.
During the late-morning observance, the Fun Center Chordsmen sang “God bless America” and “Armed Forces Medley” which recognizes each of the five branches of the military.
Korean War era veteran Douglas Theaker served as the Grand Marshall and speaker of the day. During his speech, he highlighted the service of several Richland County veterans, including Bob Hutchinson, a Korean War veteran who designed the Korean War Memorial in Central Park.
Theaker said the Korean War was a “forgotten war,” yet 38,000 men didn’t come home from it.
He also said there are hundreds of thousands of Richland Countians who deserve the title of hometown heroes. It was an honor and a privilege for him to stand on the stage and thank them for their service to the country.