WELLSBURG - First Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Mazzone said America's military veterans are no different from many of us except in one very important way.
"They said yes," Mazzone told the many attending a Veterans Day service at the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park, adding veterans perform the difficult tasks that not all are willing and able to do.
Mazzone said he is not a veteran but there are many in his family who are. He said he made that point not because he is unusual but because he is common, and the great number of men and women who have served in the military is what has made the U.S. great.
PAYING TRIBUTE — Doug Lilly, left, commander of the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad; and Tom Diserio, Wellsburg assistant fire chief, placed wreaths at a monument bearing the names of Brooke County veterans who died while serving during military conflicts and those who were prisoners of war at Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Monday. -- Warren Scott
"Their lives, their sacrifices and their presence makes us better as a nation," Mazzone said.
"No one can say they believe in our freedoms if they forget our veterans' sacrifices," the judge said.
Mazzone read a poem, written by veteran and author Charles Province, that states, "It is the Soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
"It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to protest. It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the Soldier, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
"It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."
Mazzone delivered his speech not far from a monument at the park bearing the names of 186 local veterans who died while serving in military conflicts and 27 who were prisoners of war.
"Many, far too many, paid the ultimate price, for our freedoms," he said, adding everyone should hope and pray the children of today never know war.
"If they do, they will have our veterans to thank for it," he said.
As master of ceremonies, Paul "Bud" Billiard, publicity coordinator for the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, thanked the many involved with the program.
They included the Wellsburg Volunteer Fire Department, which conducted the flag raising; Roberta Alvarez, who performed the national anthem and "God Bless America;" the Rev. Dan Pisano of St. John Catholic Church, who offered prayers; the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad, which delivered a military rifle salute; the Wellsburg Flower Shop, which supplied wreaths laid at the monument; and Janice McFadden and her staff at Brooke Hills Park, who provided refreshments.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)