Veterans Park holds family picnic

WILLIAMSTOWN – Veterans and their families gathered Sunday for a picnic in their honor at Veterans Park on West Virginia 31 near the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport.

The second annual Veterans Day Picnic ran from 12:30-5:30 p.m. at the park with food, entertainment, a children’s bounce house and displays, including Carlin’s Battery D and others, which were free to veterans and active duty military servicemembers.

Approximately 300 people gathered at the park for the event, which was organized by the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley with support from the Wood County Commission, David Huffman Law Services, South Parkersburg Wal-Mart, Deerwalk Veterans Association and Grants Rental.

Museum founder and director Gary Farris said he was a bit surprised at Sunday’s turnout for the second year of the picnic due to the weather. While sunny, temperatures were chilly on Sunday and there was a strong breeze at the park which sits near the top of a hill next to the airport.

Farris said the picnic began last year after the museum was approached by the Wood County Commission about holding such an event. The museum, located at 1829 Seventh St. in Parkersburg, holds an open house on Veterans Day. This year’s open house will be 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today.

“We had never done anything this large. The county commission asked if we would use (Veterans Park) and they would help us with food, a band and so on,” he said, which resulted in the 2012 event.

“Last year was great. We had about 400 people last year, but then again it was very warm weather, people were running around in T-shirts. I didn’t think we would have the turnout we do today,” Farris said, referring to the sunny but cold conditions.

“It’s just our way of thanking veterans,” Farris said of the picnic and other events throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Veterans Day parades in Parkersburg, Marietta and Ripley are scheduled for 10 a.m. today in each city, with other activities planned throughout the day.

Dave Buck, of Vienna, is a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army. He came to Sunday’s picnic with a friend to enjoy some food and fellowship. He also attended the first picnic last year and is pleased to see the event continuing.

“I like it, it’s great for the veterans, great for the community and everything,” Buck said, adding community support for veterans continues to rise.

Buck wasn’t sure if he would be able to attend today’s Veterans Day Parade in Parkersburg, but he did hope to visit some of the veterans organizations holding open houses through the day in recognition of the holiday.

“I’m hoping to run around with my buddy… and go to different places for the free food and donate a little back to them,” he said.

Charlton Kaneff, of Vienna, served in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army Reserves and was among the veterans attending Sunday’s event. It was his second year coming to the picnic, which he enjoys and hopes will continue in the future.

Kaneff said he will also be celebrating the holiday today with his family, including attending the Veterans Day Parade at 10 a.m. today on Washington Avenue between Parkersburg High School and City Park.

While he is pleased with the recognition veterans are receiving these days, Kaneff said he would like to see more done in terms of support and assistance.

“There needs to be more done for the veterans in this country,” he said, adding he also opposes efforts to reduce the size of the country’s active military forces.

Parkersburg resident Boyd Jackson, a veteran of the Korean Conflict in the U.S. Air Force, said he enjoyed the picnic, which he also attended last year.

“I think it’s wonderful that people care enough to have it for the veterans. It’s just nice to see guys that maybe were in the same theater you were,” he said.

Jackson is also pleased to see more community support for veterans of all types. He works as a greeter at the Wal-Mart in south Parkersburg and is often approached by people when wearing items identifying him as a veteran.

“People always come up and thank me for my service, but I also tell them ‘If you see a Vietnam serviceman, go out of your way (to thank them) because the reception when they got home was not good,'” he said.