Some Veterans Day reflections

Veterans Day arrived at Fort Friendship Museum in Friendship Park, quite brisk but nothing compared to what many in the military were exposed to during the many battlesthat have occurred in or since World War II.

Two of the attractions at the program, sponsored by the Jefferson County Veterans Association, were the talk given by Sgt. Jack Ernest, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, and the dedication of the Wall of Honor that bears the names of veterans from as far back as the Civil War.

I met a World War II veteran, Merle Waltz, who was wearing a Navy jacket with D-Day, Normandy Beach, on the back. We talked a few minutes, and he said he had received five Bronze Stars and one Bronze Arrowhead, to name a few of his honors from that war and the battles he took part in.

Jack Ernest mentioned Eugene Omaits, Fred McGee and Edward Waldman, Korean veterans, who first aspired to start Fort Friendship in the late 1990s. It happened on April 22, 1999, and after a Howitzer tank, M60A3 tank, two different sizes of military aircraft and mementoes of past wars, it grew with the addition of a prayer garden and a pavilion with poles for seven different flags. This was for the six branches of the military and the POW/MIA flag.

Esther Panepucci was at the wall dedication program. She had on a military baseball cap and heavy coat, telling that her son, Mike, who had put in many hours on the wall, had told her to dress warm.

There are still a few bricks left for the placing of the final 150. They can be ordered from Tony Phillippi, treasurer of the Jefferson County Veterans Association, 1341 County Road 15, Rayland, Ohio 43943.

Mollie Fithen was dressed warm with a hat pulled over her ears, a scarf around her neck, heavy coat and a pair of wrap-around sun glasses at the program. It took me a second to recognize her.

Dave and Kathy Simmons were smart in being clothed in heavy coats and warm hats. Judie Phillippi brought me a lawn chair, as I had forgotten to include one in the car for Memorial Day and was writing while leaning against an electric pole. She was so very nice to give me her chair then.

Lamont brought me a chair this time, along with a throw off our family room couch. It was made to duplicate an American flag, and I kept making sure I had the field of stars going in the right direction and to keep it from touching the ground. I did not want to get reprimanded by the county veterans commander, Bill Smythe.

William Duvall and I were commiserating about the cold weather, but I am sure on Memorial Day, we were complaining about the heat. It gives us something to talk about anyhow. Carl “Nuck” Smith yelled to me across the military pavilion. It is great to see that he has recovered so well from his illness. Less than two years ago, there was an earnest prayer alert to help him grow strong again. God does answer prayers.

Mary Ulczynski and I both were wearing blazing red winter coats that stood out in the crowd. She was wearing navy slacks and a white top. I didn’t go that far to be patriotic.

Frank Santa, county veterans vice commander, mentioned the founding date of each branch of the military as its flag was raised and the song that pertained to that branch was played by Wally Jancura Jr., who was keeping warm in the van, where the musical equipment was kept.

The Army is the oldest branch of the Armed Forces, founded on June 14, 1775; Navy, Oct. 13, 1775; the Marines, Nov. 10, 1775; Coast Guard, 1790; and Air Force, a separate branch of service, Sept. 18, 1947. The Merchant Marines have been around since the Civil War, it was noted.

The one person I did not see at the Veterans Day program was Calvin Mayle. I had done a story about his World War II adventures just a week prior, and we talked about him being there. With the bad weather, his lungs would not take the cold, so he stayed home.

Tom McCain and Lamont were part of the rifle salute from the Piney Fork American Legion. Harry Lowry was present from the Smithfield American Legion. Jack Campbell, county veterans chaplain, gave the invocation and benediction. He is a part of the Brilliant American Legion as well.

I had not seen Georgiana Striffler in many years, and she was at the program. She tells me that she has moved back to her home town area after being away for more than 20 years.

Fred Abdalla, our county sheriff, was in his official uniform and looked very dignified.

Jay Kolenc, sergeant-at-arms, and William Smythe, commander, laid the memorial wreath for the veterans, and Danice Ryan and Susan Guy laid the wreath for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

It was an impressive service. I know that it made a big impression on everyone.


Anthony Viola was in the office and showed me a picture of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration parade where the Big Red marching band played. He also showed me a letter to the editor that complimented the Steubenville High School band for saying grace before they ate their dinner at a restaurant on the road.

We talked memories of Adena, where he lived and graduated, and Smithfield, where I graduated from high school and still live.

It was a pleasant walk down Memory Lane.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is a staff writer and food editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily times. She can be contacted at