The Lewis County area was host to numerous Veteran’s Day ceremonies last week.
The Lewis County Senior Center hosted a week full of activities to honor veterans and remember their sacrifices. They called this their Week of Patriotism.
On Thursday, the Week of Patriotism at the center wrapped up with a meal provided by Fast & Friendly Pharmacy and a program full of symbolism, performances and guest speakers who helped honor and recognize all those who served. Patriot Guard Riders LC Ride Captain Boonie Jarvis, Commissioner Agnes Queen, Jane Lew Mayor Ruth Straley and Lewis County Chamber of Commerce Director Sherry Rogers all offered their thoughts and thanks as guest speakers for the occasion.
Rogers shared a memory of her uncle going to war in Vietnam.
“I have the honor and the privilege to raise my children and my grandchildren in the greatest country of the world,” she said.
Straley said she has a deep appreciation for veterans.
“Everything we have in the world goes back to what our military has done,” she said.
Queen said veterans should be the ones at the podium telling their stories. She said no one can match their sacrifices and their bravery, but she is honored to have been asked to speak.
The Patriot Guard Riders retired the Lewis County Senior Center’s aged, faded and tattered American flag and presented them with a new after demonstrating flag folding. The group then raised the new flag outside on the center’s pole for all to see. The same organization also set a table for all those who served, but could not be present that day, whether they were killed in action or taken as prisoners of war never to return home. Each item on the table served to symbolize something different.
Mills and Rogers presented World War II veterans Frank Angotti, Joseph E. Craft, Albert Moneypenny, Bernard Morrison and Willard Prince, and Prisoners of War Okla Edgell and Benjamin Portaro with special recognition in honor of their service and sacrifices for their country.
The center’s Young at Heart Dancers performed a few tap dancing numbers for the audience donned in patriotic attire. LC Blue, a group of student performers and their adviser, Mark Lynch, of Lewis County High School, performed multiple numbers for veterans and the audience, concluding with “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, which they asked those in attendance to sing along with them.
Ceremonies continued throughout the weekend. A parade traveled Main Avenue in Weston and concluded for a program at the Lewis County Court House. The Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) of LCHS opened the program with a presentation of the flags.
AFJROTC members presented both the invocation and benediction for the ceremony, as well as a proclamation from President Donald Trump and a detailing of the history of Veteran’s Day and World War I. Dozens attended the ceremony, braving the cold winds of Saturday afternoon. American Legion Post #4 Commander James Martin Dennison offered a few words as well. He reminded those in attendance that this Veteran’s Day marked 100 years since the end of WWI.
“It was 100 years ago at 11 o’clock, of the 11th month on the 11th day in 1918, when the Armistice began which ended World War I” Dennison said. “It was a conflict so bloody and so horrific, that they whimsically declared it the ‘War to End All Wars.’ Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was that war which lead to the founding of our organization, The American Legion, and the commitment from this country to care for veterans who came home blinded by mustard gas, shell shock from transport and impoverished from their military service.”
Also following the parade was the unveiling of the Purple Heart Memorial at the Mountaineer Military Museum.
Several Lewis County Purple Heart recipients were in attendance, including Bob Nicholson, who spearheaded the creation of the memorial. There are 12 Lewis County veterans who have received the Purple Heart.
Vietnam Veteran Terry Matthews spoke at the unveiling, and gave a short history on how the Purple Heart came into existence. First American President George Washington first designed the Purple Heart in 1782. It was made from a heart shaped cloth attached to a pin, so soldiers could attach it to their uniforms.
Matthews’s uncle and Lewis County native, Lyman Clark, received a Purple Heart for his service in WWII.
Nicholson was prepared to request donations for the monument from local businessmen. His first stop was J.E. Hitt Garage, where he spoke with Tim Hitt, who is also Nicholson’s nephew.
After Nicholson told Hitt what his mission was, Hitt sat down and wrote a check for the entire amount of the monument. Hitt and his family were also present for the unveiling.
Nicholson praised Christa Marlowe of Kiddy Monument for the memorial.
“I can’t believe how beautiful it is,” Nicholson said.
Hitt was inspired to donate because of his respect for all veterans.
“It was to honor them. They deserve it,” Hitt said.
The memorial was placed next to the Korean War Memorial on the grounds of the Mountaineer Military Museum.
Saturday afternoon’s ceremonies didn’t end there as an afternoon storytelling of the Royal Flying Corps and personnel from WWI was presented by storyteller Judi Tarowsky at the Louis Bennett Public Library. Post #4 unveiled a memorial for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during WWI at the start of the presentation.
Tarowsky chronicled Louis Bennett, Jr., a Yale University student from Weston whose name is on the memorial among the WWI fallen, and his efforts to organize a flying corps to represent West Virginia as a fighting/flying unit. Descendants of the Bennett family were in attendance. Bennett McKinley, Louis Bennett Jr.’s great-great-nephew, said Tarowsky’s retelling very accurately matched the stories passed down through the generations in his family. He said he even learned more about others known to Louis Bennett, Jr.
Local churches also hosted a veteran’s service on Sunday morning.