Veterans and Flag Day honored in City Park

PARKERSBURG – A ceremony marking Flag Day and honoring local veterans took place Saturday at City Park in Parkersburg.

Vets Say Yes Day was sponsored by AmVets Post 34 to honor veterans for their service and call special attention to veterans seeking disability benefits.

Greg Smith, a retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel, was master of ceremonies and spoke at the beginning of Saturday’s event, stating the citizens of the United States are makers of the flag.

“Under dictators there is no freedom to help make the flag, dictators only require service under their flag,” he said. “POW-MIA has a statement they use quite a bit – it’s ‘Lest we forget.'”

Smith said everyone serve the country as flag makers but in different ways and in different uniforms.

“We all stand together during sporting events and we sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner,'” he said. “This banner, this flag, is our responsibility, each and every one of us in and out of uniform, the flag is the embodiment of the American spirit, symbol of that unseen force that can cause us to unite and work together and it the American Spirit, that contagious, mysterious and dynamic can-do attitude that ties us all together as one nation under one flag.”

Smith said the only thing needed to honor the flag is for all to stand together and honor those who gave Americans their freedoms.

Ron Connor, commander of AmVets Post 34, said Saturday was designated by the post as Vets Say Yes Day in conjunction with Flag Day.

State Sen. David Nohe, R- Wood, said there are may things people take for granted from the sun coming up to running water and electricity in their homes. He said veterans are also something people take for granted

“It is important we get benefits to our veterans,” Nohe said. “In Vienna we always had a levy come up for the bus service. It has always passed and those people do not ride that bus, it for those who are disabled and less fortunate than others. That’s why we pay taxes, because we don’t want to see you get your benefits three months from now or six months from now, we want to see you get them now.”

Nohe said changes are coming and it is hoped they will speed up the process for getting benefits to deserving veterans.

Billy Wayne Bailey, deputy cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Office of Veterans Affairs, said the state has the highest proportion of veterans of any state.

“Our department serves 178,000 veterans and the latest census tells us there are 210,000 veterans in the state since not all receive benefits out of our office,” he said. “With 210,000 veterans and 1.8 million people, we are better than 10 percent.”

Bailey said West Virginians have a history of being great soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen. West Virginia will have a new department secretary on Monday, he added.

“We are pointing veterans assistance in a new direction,” he said. “Not only do we want it to help them get what they are entitled to but let them know to what they are entitled.”

Bailey said officials will work with all state departments to get the information out to veterans.