PDT Staff Reports
Members of organizations such as the American Legion, Ladies Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars and others, flanked by row after row of American flags set the scene for a Memorial Day Service in front of the KIA/MIA Memorial at Tracy Park in Portsmouth Monday morning.
"The cost of freedom is paid daily," said KIA/MIA Memorial Service guest speaker Frank Lewis. "The price of liberty falls on the debit side of the ledger every day that we breathe the air without fear of repression. The price of liberty falls on the debit side of the ledger every day that we are not oppressed by a government of tyrants."
He spoke to a silent crowd that responded when he said, "Politicians have said, 'You either get an education or end up in a place like Iraq.' They are belittling the intelligence of the individual - who, had he or she not chosen a military career, would not have allowed that politician the opportunity to criticize what the person in uniform stands for."
Lewis finished up his speech with, "On this Memorial Day, as we look at the KIA/MIA Memorial - and before we tend to just notice the marble, and its stately beauty and design - I would challenge you to look beyond the splendor created by the craftsman to that one individual name.
"If you only take the time to look at one name, do it. Touch it. Trace it. Think about their families. Look for a way to assist their children. Honor their memories; then stand back, bow your head and pray that as the despots of the world continue to challenge the freedom that is America, that there will always be that boy, that girl, who understands life is not life without its interruptions. Life is not life if we value it at any price less than life itself. God bless those who serve, and God bless the United States of America."
After the talk, a wreath was placed on the monument, followed by the playing of taps by two bugles in echo form.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Gene Davis was chairman of the event, and said he was happy with the crowd that turned out for the ceremony.
"He and several others are responsible for getting the names down there," said James Saddler, of James Dickey Post 23 - speaking of the monument, as well as the bricks in the walkway around the memorial.
At exactly 10 a.m., two F-16 fighter jets from Springfield flew overhead and keyed the beginning of a parade that was divided into four divisions.
"Our color guard, the first division - American Legion 40 & 8 color guard, both post 471 and 23 - led off the parade," Saddler said. "And then it was followed by Col. George Glaze, as our featured speaker."
Saddler said the parade marshals, Bob Kimball, who will be commander of Department of Ohio American Legion in June, and Bob Myers, commander of the burial details for all funerals for members of the American Legion, also highlighted the parade.
The parade traveled south on Chillicothe Street, east on Gallia Street, north on Offnere Street to Greenlawn Cemetery, where Glaze addressed the crowd.
After the ceremony, men and women in uniform spent hours talking about their experiences in service to their country, taking photographs and renewing acquaintances.
Some moved to the Court Street Landing along the Ohio River for the Sea Services Memorial, which was climaxed by the placing of an anchor of flowers in the river.
"This is a tribute to department members of all four of the Sea Services, the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Merchant Marines and the Marine Corps," said Sam McKibben, guest speaker for the event. "Basically it's a tribute with a wreath-laying after I get done with my speech."
McKibben said he has been part of the annual event over the years.
"They asked me 15 years ago if I would say a few words, and I said I would be glad to. I was Navy at that time," he said. "So it's something we like to do for members of the Sea Service."
McKibben said the ceremony was formerly done from a boat in the middle of the river, but because of the high waters, this year it would be walked to the edge and placed in the river.
After the McKibben speech, Saddler escorted Paula Meadows, of the Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion James Dickey Post 23 and captain of the Ladies Color Guard to the river, where she placed the anchor of red flowers on the waters.
McKibben said it has been a tradition to end the ceremony the same way every year.
"Something we like to do on behalf of the Sea Service is that we usually wish them fair winds and following seas at the end," he said.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.