Parkersburg, Vienna celebrate veterans

The Jackson Middle School choir performs “Dona Nobis Pacem” at Vienna’s Veterans Day Service Monday at Spencer’s Landing. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley paid tribute to those who have served and are serving in the armed forces Monday with parades and celebrations.

Hundreds gathered at Parkersburg City Park as the annual Veterans Day Parade entered from Washington Avenue. Surrounded by military items including a Korean war-era tank and an antiaircraft gun, retired Brig. Gen. Randy Kochersperger said the true strength of the U.S. military was represented by the monuments and memorials between them, bearing the names of those who served in its ranks.

“These monuments are more than stone and metal,” said Kochersperger, a military chaplain who recently retired after 32 years as pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Parkersburg. “They represent our loved ones.”

Kochersperger pointed out a few of the names on the Stepping Stones of Honor monument, citing grandfathers and grandsons whose names are etched on the bricks, as well as the Nedeff family, who have eight bricks representing a father and sons who served.

“This is what makes our nation great: our veterans and the value of selfless service,” Kochersperger said.

Following Parkersburg’s Veterans Day program Monday in City Park, World War II veteran James Lemon, left, speaks with Parkersburg Veterans Day Parade Marshal Franklin D. Shepherd, a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Korean war and operates a veteran food pantry with his wife at the Disabled American Veterans location in Murphytown. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

In a noon ceremony at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Vienna, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Glen Kelly — a retired Army special forces colonel who served as program manager/integrator for the government’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization in Iraq and Europe, among other posts — cited two West Virginia veterans whose sacrifices have impacted him.

One was his great-uncle, Jack Hicks, who was killed by Japanese sniper fire during World War II. Stories about Hicks inspired a sense of a calling to serve in Kelly. The other was Sgt. Gene Vance, a Morgantown resident and member of Kelly’s former unit, who was killed in 2002 in Afghanistan.

“Our freedom is not secured by debate, protest or strongly worded letters from politicians,” Kelly said. “It is secured by flesh and bone, steel and lead and most importantly our will and moral courage.”

“Be thankful to those who have sacrificed all of their tomorrows so that you and your children may live in liberty today,” he said.

Special attention was paid at each ceremony to veterans of World War II, with less than 500,000 still living, according to the National World War II Museum.

Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason Matthews drives the city’s antique fire engine as Navy veteran Stanley Durrett, left, of Parkersburg, and Army veteran Dan Sherman, of Washington, W.Va., toss out candy along Washington Avenue during the Parkersburg Veterans Day Parade. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“You better take the chance to talk with your grandparents and find out the stories of World War II before it’s too late,” Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp said.

Five — L. Paul Stone, Raymond Smith, Mary Seligman, James Lemon and Marchell Jones — rode in a specially marked van in the Parkersburg parade, while another, Ray Brown, joined them at the ceremony. Stone also attended the Vienna event, along with Ray Linch.

Lemon said he attends the Parkersburg event each year because it gives him an opportunity to be with his fellow veterans.

“All the guys I served with are dead,” he said. “I just miss them. I like to associate with the military.”

Stone said he was surprised by the turnout at City Park on a cold Monday morning.

Retired Brig. Gen. Randy Kochersperger speaks Monday during the Parkersburg Veterans Day program at City Park. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“We weren’t expecting this many,” he said.

Williamstown resident Reba Stull said she came to City Park in part because her children were marching with the Williamstown High School band but also because the day is important to her, with multiple members of her family having served.

“We need to respect these veterans because they’ve done so much for us. People don’t realize what they go through,” she said. “This is just a little taste of what we should give them.”

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said it was good to celebrate veterans Monday but it’s something that needs to be done every day.

“Every day, someone is serving somewhere on our behalf,” he said.

Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Glen Kelly, a retired Army special forces colonel, speaks at Vienna’s Veterans Day Service Monday at Spencer’s Landing. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

World War II Army veteran Ray Linch, left, and Vietnam War Army veteran Rick Raab carry a wreath to place at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Vienna’s Spencer’s Landing Monday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Riders on the Davisville Disabled American Veterans Chapter 32 entry wave to the crowd during the Parkersburg Veterans Day parade Monday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)