Focus on Fostoria - Jun0105e

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Published on 06/01/05 in the Fostoria Focus
Always remember is Memorial Day message
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“We don’t celebrate the way they died. We celebrate the fact that they lived and form an indelible part of our national legacy.”

Remembrance, that our veterans’ deeds remain indelible, was the message that featured speaker Lt. Col. Damon Walsh delivered at Fostoria’s Memorial Day observance Monday.

Overnight rains yielded to sunny skies and a pleasant, warm morning as some 500 Fostorians gathered at Fountain Cemetery.

The Memorial Day observance is organized each year by all four of Fostoria’s Veterans Posts — Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 440, AMVETS Post 69, American Legion Post 73, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 421. The Vietnam Veterans of America was the host organization this year. VVA Commander Arnie Sayre was the master of ceremonies.

The other commanders are Bruce Nolan, VFW; Art Allison, American Legion; and Ron Thompson, AMVETS.

Lt. Col. Walsh is Commander of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, popularly known as the “tank plant.” He has 24 years of service.

He has been an airborne infantry officer and special forces officer and served in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Col. Walsh also has a Fostoria connection.

“He was very responsible for the restoration of the cemetery’s two cannons along with Toby Colbert and Mike Strahm,” Arnie Sayre said.

Lt. Col. Walsh allowed the use of Joint Systems facilities for that project. Arnie presented him with a certificate of appreciation.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1868.

“It has continued to be a day when we, as a nation, remember those who can never participate again and note the tremendous cost we have paid for our freedoms with the most cherished national treasures we have, our sons and our daughters,” Lt. Col. Walsh said.

He said that more than one million American service members have died in the nation’s wars.

“Every one of those dead is someone’s son or daughter. Each time a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman pays the ultimate price a family somewhere in America is visited by a notification team,” he said. “From that day forward, that family is left with an enormous hole in their hearts. That family’s life will never be the same.”

Lt. Col. Walsh reminded the audience that nearly 250,000 uniformed Americans are serving around the world to protect and spread freedom. Sadly, some of them will not return.

He said that it is important for each individual to observe Memorial Day.

“Make time to seek out a veteran and ask them to remember who they remember who is not here with us today,” he said. “I urge you to take the time to learn about the life and times of just one of these heroes ... Take them into your heart by sustaining their memory and learning what they planned to do but will not now ever be able to accomplish.”

Prior to Lt. Col. Walsh’s talk, Arnie Sayre recognized Jay Mendoza, a wounded member of the Army who is home from Iraq recovering from his injuries. Fostorians recently came together to raise money so his family could travel to Texas to visit him when he came stateside.

The firing squad and color guard salute was provided by the Fostoria United Veterans color guard and firing squad. In 2004, the United Veterans furnished honors at the funerals of 39 departed veterans.
The VVA color guard posted the colors. The Fostoria Community Band performed musical selections. Danny Opperman sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Dustin Nedolast and Eric Brenner read the Gettysburg Address and Gen. Logan’s Orders. Rev. Donald Goodwin and Father Daniel Ring gave the invocation and benediction. Jonathan Reinhart and Scott Brady played “Taps” and Chuck Parsons read “In Flanders Field.”

In his welcoming remarks, Mayor John Davoli thanked retired cemetery supervisor John Potteiger for his work in making the cemetery look nice for Memorial Day as well as John’s successor Felix Gonzales.
The mayor announced that 2005 would be the last year for the current podium. The city and the Veterans Memorial Chapel Committee are cooperating to erect a new podium. The block that reads “A Grateful City Pays Tribute To Its Honored Dead” and the emblems remembering America’s wars will be incorporated in the new podium.

The American Legion Auxiliary welcomed a new participant this year. Wendy Whiteker has been an auxiliary member for a long time.

“I’ve been a member since I was 2 years old,” she said, “and here I am. I’ve been more active since my husband Steve and I moved back from Columbus last October.”

Wendy, who is blind, held the American Legion Auxiliary’s colors and had help from her guide dog Calypso.

“Calypso and I have been a team for a year now. I enjoyed being in the service. We have a nice Memorial Day ceremony in Fostoria. It’s very well done,” she said.

Wendy might be the first blind person to participate in Memorial Day observances and Calypso the first guide dog to do so. The auxiliary’s Helen Collins said she needed help this year and “Wendy came to my rescue.”

During his remarks, Lt. Col. Walsh said, “Winston Churchill once remarked we make our living by what we earn. We mark our lives as memorable by what we give. The people we honor today mark themselves as heroes by what they’ve given us, a free and powerful nation that inarguably stands as a beacon for the rest of the world.”