Local veterans organizations place wreaths at the memorial in Martin L. "Marty" Snook Park

November 11, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • Honor Guard and audience pause for moment of silence Friday at Washington County Maryland Veterans Memorial Garden in Martin L. "Marty" Snook County Park.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HALFWAY, Md. — More than 80 people gathered on a cold, blustery Friday morning for a ceremony to honor the 22 million surviving veterans who have served in the armed forces and the millions more who have died, either in military service or long past their discharge or retirement dates.

During the ceremony held by the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County, representatives of veterans organizations placed wreaths at the foot of the memorial in Martin L. "Marty" Snook Park, with its bronze reliefs of scenes from World War I, World War II, and the Korea and Vietnam wars.

Among those present for the ceremony was Mike Vaughn of Hagerstown, wearing the U.S. Navy blue jumper he wore during his service in the 1950s.

"I come every Veterans Day if I'm able," said Vaughn, who served on a destroyer in the North Atlantic more than half a century ago. "I'll be 76 before long, and I'll keep coming as long as I can.

"This is really one of my obligations to the country. It's the least I can do," Vaughn said.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Dieter Protsch of Hagerstown, a Vietnam veteran, wore his Class A uniform topped by a green beret as he laid a wreath from the Special Forces Association at the park's veterans memorial.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Art Callaham, also a Vietnam War vet and the guest speaker, joked that if he could still button his old uniform no one would dare stand in front of him for fear of being hit by a flying button.

Craig Wibberley was killed in the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, one of two Washington County men to die in the al-Qaeda terrorist attack, the other being Patrick Roy.

Wibberley's father, Tom, was at Friday's ceremony, having earlier this week been in Norfolk, Va., to view the arraignment of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by closed-circuit television link with the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

Wibberley said he expects it to be a long trial for the man suspected of orchestrating the attack that killed his son and 16 other sailors.

"It kind of irritates me that we're supplying lawyers for this guy," Wibberley said.

Callaham recalled men like America's last World War I veteran Frank Buckles, the West Virginia man who died earlier this year at the "ripe old age of 110," and his father-in-law who served in three wars.

"In his youth, he was eager to do his part," Callaham said of his late father-in-law, Lewis R. Cardwell. "In his dotage he was very proud of his efforts, a sentiment that lingers in the hearts of all you veterans today.

"An American veteran is a man or woman who signed a blank check, payable to the United States of America for any amount, up to and including their life," a tearful Callaham said.

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