Bethany president: Show pride in vets
WELLSBURG — As guest speaker for the Veterans Day service held by the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, the president of Bethany College said veterans need to be told they have made a difference, that they are vital to our security and peace.
The Rev. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg said when an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day, their fellow Americans must serve as “a candle to the darkness” they experience.
“These are our men and women and we must show them our pride,” she told those gathered at Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church.
Rodenberg said staff with the Bethany College office of student life and members of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity this weekend expressed their appreciation for veterans through a 24-hour vigil at the campus’ flagpole outside, lighting 22 luminaria over that period for the veterans who have died at their own hands.
She said her father served as an Air Force rescue pilot in Vietnam but spoke little about his experiences except to note he was encouraged to change from his uniform when he disembarked from the airplane that brought him home.
She said she was proud when he attended, in dress uniform, the opening of the Soul Repair Center, a program offering emotional and spiritual support to veterans she helped to found at Brite Divnity School in Fort Worth, Texas.
Rodenberg noted the holiday originated on Nov. 11, 2019 as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of a treaty between those who fought in World War I — “the end of the war to end all wars.”
She added it was renamed Veterans Day, by act of Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower, to honor all veterans.
Rodenberg said it’s fitting that everyone gathers to honor those who died while serving their country and thank all who made sacrifices to provide that same service.
Foundation member Paul “Bud” Billiard, who served as master of ceremonies, said every veteran can be defined as “someone who wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including his or her life.”
He noted the names of many such veterans can be found on the monument at the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park.
Located at Brooke Hills Park, it was inspired by the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith, a 21-year-old Wellsburg native who was killed while attempting to aid fellow soldiers during a skirmish in Afghanistan.
Billiard noted since 2009, the foundation has recognized local families with multiple members who served in the military.
This year recognition went to the Clark and Iafrate families.
Hailing from McKinleyville, the Clarks included Army World War II veterans William, Jack, Charles and George, all deceased. George also served in Korea, where he was wounded in combat.
Hailing from Follansbee, the Iafrates included Loreto “88” Iafrate, a Navy World War II veteran; Albert, who served the Army from 1948 to 1950; and Geno, who served in the Army from 1945 to 1947.
Loreto and Albert were on hand to join their family in remembering their late brother.
Plaques bearing the veterans’ names and sponsored by the Wellsburg Lions Club will be displayed at the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum and Education Center at the Brooke County Public Library.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)