For many, Monday was a time to thank America's military veterans for their service and reflect on the incalculable price paid by those who never returned home.
Wheeling marked Veterans Day with a ceremony Monday at WesBanco Arena - one of many communities throughout the Ohio Valley that paused this weekend to remember the sacrifices of those who fought to obtain and preserve America's freedom throughout its history.
"It's for one simple reason - we never forget," said Joe Fatigati, American Legion Post 1 commander and master of ceremonies for Monday's event. "Take a look around - these veterans wrote a blank check payable to the USA in an amount up to and including their life."
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Gary Wolfe, from left, Bob Allen, Gary Hoskins and Bob Schane, members of American Legion Post 46 in Benwood, fire a salute during a Veterans Day ceremony at St. Vincent de Paul Parish on Monday.
The special guest speaker for the ceremony was John Looney, team leader at the Wheeling Vet Center in Bethlehem, which helps veterans obtain counseling and other services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Using money raised at the Park Dances Revisited event this summer, the Wheeling Vet Center organized a day trip for area veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the various monuments around the National Mall. Looney said about 40 veterans made the trip Sunday, representing five different eras of American combat - World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"And they were all one. ... They might have been at different places, but inside, they all had the same emotion," he said.
Looney, a Vietnam War veteran who now counsels the next generation of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, said those who survive the horrors of combat often don't realize how profoundly their experience has impacted them. But loved ones, while they may be incapable of fully understanding what a veteran has gone through, can make a difference simply by letting them know there's someone who will always be there, he said.
"Families see them and they know they've changed. ... A simple touch of a spouse's hand on the veteran's hand, a touch on their arm says, 'I'm here' ... and how comforting that is."
American Legion Post 1 member Dave Schoenian presided over an "empty chair" ceremony, a somber ritual performed in remembrance of America's prisoners of war and those killed or missing in action.
Pat Duffy, past exalted ruler of the Wheeling Elks Lodge 28, also recognized five World War II and Korean War veterans who live at the Elmhurst House of Friendship in Woodsdale, including Dot Pyle of the U.S. Women's Army Corps communications branch; Flossie Huls, an Army nurse; Bob Martin, an Army medical technician; Milford Cunningham, a Navy mechanical engineer; and Army veteran Henry Hupp. Duffy said the five were unable to attend Monday's ceremony but will receive the plaques presented in their honor.
Monday's ceremony also featured readings from Jill Robbins of the American Legion Auxiliary; Chaplain Bill Fuller of the American Legion Post 89; Della Nazzaro, an Army nurse during the Korean War; and Michael Novotney and John Powell, both of American Legion Post 1.