Monday, November 12, 2001

Tristate pays homage to vets

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WWII veteran Jim Swegles of Fort Thomas salutes the flag at the City Building in Newport.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        BLUE ASH — On his 73rd birthday Sunday, one of Dean McClellan's presents was a gift from the Republic of Korea, arriving about 50 years late. Mr. McClellan, and 20 other Korean War veterans and wives of deceased veterans, received the Korean War Service Medal from Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a ceremony at Blue Ash Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park.

        The gift may be late, but the Adams County veteran of the so-called Forgotten War said he is still grateful.

        “At least they didn't forget us,” he said.

        Neither did his family. About 30 members surprised him by attending the ceremony.

        All across the Tristate, crowds at Veterans Day celebrations showed extra zeal, honoring members of wars past while praying for and sup porting troops in the present war. From Oxford to Alexandria, ceremonies and parades were filled with America's music, waving flags and crowds dressed in red, white and blue.

        Mr. McClellan said he sees a different attitude about Veterans Day because of renewed patriotism since the attacks of Sept. 11.

Ralph Grothjan, a Korean War vet, and Vietnam vet present a flag at Lakota West High School.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        “It's really made people pay attention,” he said. “Everybody is part of it now. It's not just the veterans.”

        Across the river in Newport, the Lawler-Hanlon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5662 led a parade to the city building.

        Ruth Harthun of Newport said she and her 9-year-old daughter, Sara, came to support our troops overseas and to honor those who've died.

        Karen Farmer of Newport said she was there to honor fallen veterans but also “the ones who are out there now, trying to get everything straightened out,” she said.

        “I also came to support the VFW. They do a lot for our city.”

        After the crowd of about 80 dispersed, Danny Vickers, a 39-year-old Gulf War veteran from Bellevue and commander of Post 5662, reflected on the day.

        “The veterans here fought for the right of our civilians to have the opportunity to choose what they want to do, what they want to wear, who they want to believe in, where they want to live and what schools they want to go to,” Mr. Vickers said.

Corey McClellan, 3, stands with his mother Julie at the Blue Ash Bicentennial Veterans Memorial.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        In Colerain Township, a Community Freedom Celebration took place at the Colerain High School football stadium. The event saluted area veterans as well as firefighters and police officers.

        Earlier in the day in Blue Ash, Brig. Gen. Robert W. Mixon Jr., deputy commander at Fort Knox, was keynote speaker.

        The Korean War Service Medals marked the 50th anniversary of the conflict, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. The Republic of Korea offered the medals in 1951 to United Nations forces serving in Korea and adjacent waters.

        At the time, U.S. law prohibited the military from wearing medals issued by foreign governments. Congress changed that law in 1954, but by then most U.S. service members eligible for the medal had returned home.

        In 1998, the Korean government renewed its original offer, and a year later, the Defense Department accepted it. Approximately 1.8 million U.S. Korean War veterans are eligible for the medal, as are relatives of deceased veterans.

        “It's nice to know they did appreciate our efforts,” said Gene Mitchusson, who served in Korea. “I was an infantry officer, which is a far cry from what I am now.”

        The 70-year-old Mount Lookout man was wearing the collar of an Anglican priest. He is pastor at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Oakley.

        “I think people feel it much more deeply now,” Father Mitchusson said. “I know I do. Today, with this, brings back a lot of memories, some pleasant and some not so pleasant.”

        Mr. Portman pinned medals on the veterans, who live in the five counties of his congressional district: Hamilton, Adams, Brown Clermont and Warren.

        “The Korean War is often called the "forgotten war' because it fits in history books between the triumph of World War II and the turmoil of the Vietnam War,” Mr. Portman said.

        “These men all saw combat, and they all put their lives on the line. To them, I guarantee you, this war was very real.”

        A different war wages, not on a nation but on the practice of terrorism, he said. He assured the crowd of 200 that the United States will prevail.

        “Once again we find ourselves facing a difficult time as a nation. We've been through this before. Our veterans have always come through for us.”

Veterans Day events
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RADEL: A Veterans Day view of America

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