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Generations of veterans honored in Morgan County

November 11, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

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    BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- More than 200 people turned out to honor Morgan County veterans on Wednesday at the American Legion Post 60 on U.S. 522. 

    Shelly Champion, Berkeley Springs resident and gospel singer, performed Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" and received a standing ovation. 

    "When I sing, I sing because I mean it," she said after the ceremony. "I cannot describe the feeling of today. Many members of my family have served or are serving. Veterans Day brings a special bond," she said. 

    Champion said her daughter is in the U.S. Navy and her son is serving in the West Virginia Air National Guard. Her husband, Tim Blankenship, has served 29 years with the Air National Guard.

    American Legion Commander James Proffitt served in Korea with the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division. He enlisted in 1949 at age 16, he said, with the permission of his grandmother. He was wounded three times and still carries shrapnel from those wounds. 

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Proffitt said the large crowd commemorating veterans was because of the tragedy of Ft. Hood, Texas. He said last year's crowd was about half.   

Morgan County Commission President Brenda J. Hutchinson, the guest speaker, said, "Everyone here knows someone who put their life on the line for our country."

Members of the Hutchinson family are veterans, including Gerald Hutchinson, 90, who served in Germany during World War II with the U.S. Army's 36th Infantry Division. He was 23 when he joined the service and ended up in a prisoner of war camp for more than six months.  

"It was never a dull moment," he said.  

Archie Largent, 91, served in World War II with the U.S. Army's Mechanized Calvary. He was 22 when he enlisted but he wanted to be a soldier since the third grade, he said. 

The Legion's 2nd Vice Commander, Morgan County Sheriff Vince Shambaugh, served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the first Iraq War. He was an anti-terrorist specialist with the U.S. Air Force Air National Guard and served in Afghanistan, he said. 

Shambaugh said being brave is not just going off to war, but working toward peace is also bravery. 

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