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A young man with small children, an elderly woman in a wheelchair and all ages in between – all U.S. military veterans who turned out Sunday for a Veterans Day service at the Shelby County Extension Office.
They came with their families, and in some instances their families came without them, celebrating veterans who had passed away, such as Bruce Wells, an Army veteran of World War II who, along with his brother, Truman, of Lawrenceburg had received his high school diploma in 2009, when both men were in their 80s.
Some family members of absent veterans even spoke, such as Carol Cassedy, who stood to honor her son, Cpl. Sean Cassedy, a Marine who committed suicide in May because of post traumatic stress syndrome he had developed during three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Along with listening to speakers Lt. Col. Keith Gramig, who heads up the Army ROTC unit at Collins High School, and Warrant Officer Bruce Gentry, a Shelbyville Police officer who is a former Marine and a member of the Kentucky National Guard, more than 150 visitors browsed through a room full of displays that included memorabilia from World War II, to Korea and Vietnam eras and even to both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I was really pleased with the turnout,” said Extension Homemaker Darlene Arington, who is chair of the committee that puts on the service each year.
“It’s really something to see when all these veterans get together, and they’re all so humble. But there’s a pride there, too, a pride in serving their country, and that always touches my heart.”
That pride shown through, as she glanced around the large room, with nearly a third of it dedicated to military displays, with countless photos, medals, and other items. Veterans could be seen wearing everything from dress uniforms to fatigues.
Some wore their military jackets, such as Vietnam veteran Billy Chandler of Shelby County who had cut out the back of his jacket and sewn it onto a shirt and added embellishments that he now wears on special occasions, he said.
“This right here, I wore it in Vietnam,” he told Barry Campbell, another Vietnam vet, as the pair looked through a Vietnam War scrapbook, and another pair of veterans, Carlen Pippin (Vietnam) and Charles Turner (Korean War), talked about war exploits.
Many, such as World War II veteran Noble Roberts, who served in the Coast Guard at Okinawa, brought photos and other memorabilia. Still others, such as Gentry, even brought military uniforms to put on display.
With patriotic music in the background, played by violinist Derrick Sanford, with loved ones talking about those who made sacrifices and surrounded by stirring military photos, the service made for an emotional day.
Pippin said he had just gotten back from a visit to the site of the Berlin Wall, a barrier constructed in 1961 during the Cold War era, separating East and West Germany and preventing emigration from East Berlin. After a period of unrest in 1989, with the erosion of political power in pro-Soviet Union government, the wall was torn down.
Pippin said he was awed at the sight of the smiles on the faces of those that had journeyed there to visit that former symbol of Communism.
“You know, everybody takes freedom for granted these days,” Pippin said. “But what would you have without it? Nothing, nothing at all.”