BROOKVILLE — State Rep. Cris Dush (R-Brookville) and local veteran Jeff Houdek, of New Bethlehem, were the guest speakers at the Veterans Day program at Laurelbrooke Landing on Monday.
The program was more informal and after just a few remarks from each man, the floor was opened to those veterans attending to share comments and stories. Veterans attending included Kenneth Sprankle, Roger Roebbke, Harold Hartley, Ralph Minich, Ken Himes, Lanny Ferraro and Jack Johnston.
“This is something I had heard before and Lanny (Ferraro) said he just heard a couple of weeks ago, it’s basically about the folding of the flag. The flag is folded 13 times and each fold has meaning and that’s what I’m going to read, courtesy of Lanny,” Himes said. He then proceeded to read the Symbols of the 13 folds of the U.S. Flag:
- The first fold is the symbol of life.
- The second fold is the veteran’s belief in eternal life.
- The third fold – made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks, who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
- The fourth fold represents our weaker nature as American citizens trusting in God; it is to him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for his divine guidance.
- The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
- The sixth fold where our hearts lie. It is with our hearts that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
- The seventh fold – tribute for our armed forces, for it is through them that we protect our country and flag against all our enemies whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic .
- The eighth fold – tribute to the ones who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of death.
- The ninth fold – tribute to womanhood and mothers, for it has been through their faith, their love, their loyalty, and their devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
- The 10th fold – tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first-born.
- The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in Hebrew eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christian’s eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
- The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.”
“That’s pretty good,” Himes noted when he finished reading.
Ferraro noted that he belongs to an organization called Tin Can Sailors, which is made up of Destroyer veterans who served on Navy Destroyers, which were nicknamed Tin Cans. He described a destroyer as “if you envison a ship as sort of a gun platform, it’s a little bit longer, not quite a 100 feet longer, than a football field and not quite as wide. We’d often take water over the up to the bridge of the ship, so it’s really rough riding.”
He then quoted an admiral who said ‘that you can always tell a Destroyer sailor because he walks with a swagger.’ Ferraro drew laughs when he added, “that’s just because it’s the only way he can walk.”
He noted that there were 84 destroyers sunk during World War II, noting that the complement of sailors on a destroyer is near 300 during wartime activity. “Twenty-four of them were sunk in the Battle of Okinawa by Kamikaze planes,” Ferrar said.
He told the group a little bit about the Tin Can Sailors organization, which is based near Boston, Mass. He noted that there is a picture in the museum that’s located there of every destroyer that was sunk.
Himes related a story about his Uncle John Thomas who served on a destroyer during World War II in the Pacific Ocean. The ship he noted was hit by a torpedo “at apparently a very critical point and the ship split. “One half sunk immediately, while the other half stayed up long enough that most of the people got off of it. They were in the water for a while. They got rescued. He was wounded very badly and went back to Pearl (Harbor) and was there five or seven months. Never told his mom and dad. They never knew it until he got home that he nearly died. That would have been an interesting time I’m sure for him.”
Ferraro asked if Himes knew the name of the ship, but while he has found some of his records he has not been able to discover which destroy his uncle had been on. “I’m not even sure what part of the Pacific. It was a family story that was always handed down.”
With some searching in his Tin Can Sailors magazine he was able to tell Ferraro that there were only five destroyers sunk by submarines in World War II. Himes plans to write down their names and do some additional research.
Dush said, “both as somebody who served and somebody who’s a father of one who serves, my oldest son Ryan has been to Afghanistan twice and the Horn of Africa, three times I think, and most recently Iraq – they don’t tell you everything. It’s easier to be the guy that’s over there than it is to be the parent of someone who’s there.”
“It’s been so hard for a lot of people to share their stories, but our young people need to hear it,” Dush said. He also noted that the telling of a story is also a “release” for the veteran and “it helps.
“When we don’t inform them that there is evil out there in this world, we not doing them any favors,” he said, in talking about telling young people the stories veterans have lived. “If you look at what’s going on on the televison screens, those young people who are demonstrating, saying how bad America is, they have no idea what bad is.”
In response to Dush’s remark, Himes noted that “and our poor have no idea what poor is.”
Veteran Harold Hartley talked about the Vietnam War. “We saw horrible TV pictures during the war and we saw pictures of protest. Young people protesting the war. In a sense, that’s one of the things we went to serve for, for the right of expression. During this period I had a student that was a disc jockey at WWCH in Clarion and he organized on two different occasions a parade. He called it the Green Beret parade and it was a student-sponsored parade in support of the war. Does anybody remember that?”
Dush said he didn’t but he was glad he did it.
Hartley said it happened sometime during the Vietnam War but he couldn’t pinpoint the date.
“Our folks around here have always been more active in the military...by and large when my cousin Bobbie was killed in 68 the Leo Nedza Funeral Home over there they were lined up around the block. Our folks around here weren’t falling inline with what the people in the cities were doing.”
That brought comments of how some of those serving had to wear civilian clothes when in port rather than their military uniforms during the Vietnam War because of the protests. Another veteran followed up with a story about his service during the Korean War when wearing his uniform enabled him to hitchhike from Newport, RI, home to Summerville in nine hours on the weekend. It should the sharp difference on how veterans were treated differently.
Dush also talked about helping others who are seeking freedom and democracy. He told those attending about the Iranians who were “demonstrating on the streets with signs in American English, talking about how they wanted freedom. And I remember praying ‘Oh Lord let us do what Ronald Reagan did with (Solidarity Chairman) Lech Walesa and those people in Warsaw and Poland and stand with them. All Reagan had to do was call them out as the ‘evil empire’ and tell President (Mikhail) Gorbachev tear down this wall and yet we did nothing and the Iranian government went and imprisoned and tortured all those people. Our nation needs to wake up to what we stand for.”
“Overcoming those brutal regimes, they need to do it themselves but we need to stand with them. It was all words for Reagan,” he said, adding that Reagan’s calling out Gorbachev gave hope to the people in the east that “what they knew in their hearts was apparent to the west.”
In relation to the theme of helping others gain freedom, World War II and the Invasion of Normandy was brought up. Ferraro talked about attending the 20th re-enactment of the Invasion of Normandy on D-Day during World War II. The event is held annually in August in Conneaut, Ohio. He said there were more than 1,400 volunteers and more than 5,000 people attending. It is a free event, which also offers a veterans program to honor veterans and their families. For more information about the annual event, go to its website at https://www.ddayohio.us.