The ninth annual Veterans Day ceremony took place on Saturday, Nov. 6, at Memorial Park in Huntington. During this special ceremony, Huntington County also honored the Veterans of the Quarter, which were the members of the VFW Post No. 2689 Service Honor Guard.
The event began with a parade that started at Huntington North High School (HNHS) and ended at Memorial Park. Once all attendees were gathered at the War Memorial, Huntington County Veterans Service Officer Tim Eckert gave a brief history of the day.
“One hundred years ago, the bugle call cease fire was sounded, ending World War I. In a railway coach in France on that day at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice was signed formally ending the war, which was to end all wars,” Eckert explained. “Armistice Day—as it is originally called—was started to celebrate the end of World War I and received its formal name by Congress in 1926 and became a national holiday 12 years later. After World War II, communities began honoring veterans who returned on Armistice Day. Many referred to these celebrations as Veterans Day to include these veterans of World War II.”
Eckert went on to say that, “Veterans Day is primarily a tribute to all American living veterans and is typically observed more as a celebration, while we traditionally reserve Memorial Day as a somber remembrance to those who gave their lives for their country and to those who have since crossed over to the other shore.”
Next, the HNHS Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) posted the colors, followed by the Erie Band playing the National Anthem and American Legion Post No. 7 Chaplain Ed Hippensteel sharing an invocation.
“Dear Lord, today we honor our veterans, brave men and women who gave their best when they were called upon to serve and protect our country,” Hippensteel said. “We pray that you will bless them, Lord, for their unselfish service and their continual struggle to preserve our freedom, our safety and our country’s heritage. Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced, the sacrifices they made and the many different contributions to America’s victories over tyranny and oppression.”
Eckert returned to the podium to say a word of appreciation to those who chose to serve and those who gave their lives because of it.
“On this day, our nation and our community honor all veterans and our men and women currently serving in the armed forces. We especially honor those who have taken a stand in harm’s way to preserve our freedom,” Eckert said. “Over 40 million veterans have served our great country since its inception, with 22 million living today. Of the millions who have served since the end of World War I, the U.S. has lost nearly 400,000 soldiers killed in action.”
Eckert went on to list the number of fallen heroes of each war from Huntington County:
• World War I – 18.
• World War II – 91.
• Korea – eight.
• Vietnam – 16.
• Iraq – one.
• Afghanistan – one.
Those in attendance then observed VFW Post No. 2689 playing Taps and performing a 21-gun salute.
After this act of remembrance, Eckert introduced the Grand Marshal for the 2021 Veterans Day Parade, Larry Roberts.
According to Eckert, Roberts was drafted straight out of high school. He served in the U.S. Army 17th Cavalry 198th Infantry Battalion in Vietnam from Jan. 6 to Dec. 31, 1970.
Roberts served as a tanker (loader, shooter and tank commander). He also performed ground patrols and was a tunnel rat. He did patrols on the peninsula 90 miles from the DMZ south of Qui Nhon City, the same mission as 1st Cavalry patrols were on the Thu Bon River to the Stenson Outpost.
During one of his patrols on July 25, 1970, Roberts’ tank—which was the lead tank—was destroyed by a roadside bomb. He received an injury to his right leg, for which he received a Purple Heart. The crew lost their tank commander due to injuries that he later died from. Roberts was named tank commander for the duration of his deployment.
“He was awarded one Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, an Army Commendation Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal, a Vietnam Campaign Medal and a Combat Infantry Badge, all in 11 months and 26 days in Vietnam,” Eckert said.
Roberts returned home after his service to his wife, Nancy, of 53 years. They have four children, all of which attended the ceremony.
After the grand marshal recognition, Chris Crabtree shared a letter from Congressman Jim Banks with the attendees of the ceremony.
“Dear friends, thank you all for being here today. I wish I could be with you. However, I’m grateful to you for allowing my staff to share this message on my behalf,” Crabtree said. “I first want to thank every veteran in attendance. Without you, we would not have a country. I also want to thank the families of every veteran here today. Without your love and support, the difficult sacrifices of our service members would not have been possible.”
“Huntington County veterans are blessed to live in a community that is faithful in honoring veterans for their outstanding service in the defense of freedom around the globe. At this critical juncture in American history, it is essential to remind ourselves of that which Americans fought, bled and too often died.
“It is true that America is special because of our constitution and the values enshrined in it: liberty, equality and the right of self-governance. It is true that America is special because it is the land of opportunity, but these facts alone did not stir some 41.8 million U.S. service members to serve America in wartime. America is most special because it is ours. It is our home, our inheritance and it is always worth fighting for.”
Next, Huntington County Commissioner Terry Stoffel introduced the VFW Post No. 2689 Service Honor Guard as the Veterans of the Quarter.
Currently, the Honor Guard consists of 19 members, of which Jerry Helms is the longest serving member. The other members include Leslie Ackerman, Dennis Brumbaugh, David Casiano, Dave Dankenbring, Rodney Funk, Steve Garwood, Mike Harrell, Keith Hartley, Garry Miller, Bob Rsaza, Max Sell, Mike Smith, Rick Stell, John Stockman, Jerry Walling, Steve Winterowd, Dan Whitesell and Mike Worrel.
Stoffel explained that the Honor Guard has a variety of duties including performing Taps, escort duties, flag folding, gun salutes, color guard detail and more.
“Rain or shine. Cold, wind blowing… it doesn’t matter. They are there,” Stoffel said.
Stoffel went on to say that they are contacted by funeral homes to perform these services and they do approximately 60 funerals per year. They also do special events like Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. On average, the VFW Post No. 2689 Honor Guard clocks in 570 hours of service and 6,808 miles in travel each year.
“Thank you for all that you do,” Stoffel said as he presented the award.
The program ended with the HNHS JROTC retiring the colors and Hippensteel giving a benediction.