LISBON - Old, young, men and women, nearly 40 people with one thing in common were honored Sunday - they all served our country in the armed forces.
Veterans from World War II right up through the current conflicts were given patriotic quilts and afghans at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds during this year's Operation Forever Grateful event.
Some of those honored fought in conflicts, while others provided the supplies or medical help needed to keep those on the front lines fighting. Some were lucky enough to be called to duty during more peaceful times, always ready in the event they were needed.
Amvets Post 45 of Salem Commander Steve Galchick (left) and Doug Brannon of the VFW salute during Taps. (Salem News photo by Deanne Johnson)
Col. Dr. Willard J. Stamp of Salem, served in an Army hospital. He was drafted following his graduation with a Dr. of Optometry from Ohio State University. His quilt was made by Phyllis French. 16B A Purple Heart recipient Blair Whitman presented the quilt. (Salem News photo by Deanne Johnson)
Doug Brannon, commander of the Salem VFW Post 892, shared many of their stories while they were handed a blanket, made by women and organizations throughout the community. In some cases the quilt or afghan was made by a family member, a granddaughter or great aunt, proud of their family member's service.
Some eyes welled with tears in gratitude. Some beamed broad smiles and still others offered a polite wave to the crowd in response to the well-earned applause. A biography of each veteran was read by Brannon, including in some cases the veteran's own words about their time of service.
"Bob states it is difficult to explain the feeling that he and his buddies had as they passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, returning home to the good ol' USA," Brannon read from the information provided about C.R. "Bob" Wells, who served in South Korea. "He says that after all these years, he still gets a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes as he recalls those days and the buddies who did not return home with him."
Charles W. Somers, a World War II veteran, one of 10 honored on Sunday, was in the Army as a combat engineer in the European Theater.
"In June 1944, we crossed the ocean without any escort," Charles said in his biography. "They lined us up on both sides with binoculars to watch for periscopes. It was kind of spooky. Luckily, we never saw any."
Another biography was read about B. Jane Garver, a World War II veteran who joined the Navy and took care of sick and injured Marines returning from war. She met her husband, a Marine named Irving Garver, who eventually proposed. They moved to East Liverpool and were married for 60 years before he passed away.
"Jane writes that she considers this honor as much for her husband, Irving, as for herself, because the Marines were on the front lines."
In most cases, they returned to have families, work, start businesses and appreciate the freedom they helped preserve for the rest of us.
At the end of Sunday's ceremony, it was announced next year, Sept. 11-15, the Moving Wall, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will be at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds.
Prior to the Operation Forever Grateful presentation, a service of commemoration was held near the flag in the fairgrounds.
"Freedom has never been free," reminded Commander Steve Galchick of Amvets Post 45 in Salem. "Ask a veteran who stormed Omaha Beach ... or a veteran who chased the Republican Guard all the way back to Baghdad.