FOLLANSBEE - Leaders of Follansbee American Legion Post 45 and local officials recognized local veterans of all eras at a Veterans Day program held outside the post on Main Street Sunday.
Mayor Emeritus Tony Paesano told those attending that all Americans should note the many veterans over the years who have answered the call to duty and particularly those who lost their lives in answering that call.
"If not for their courage, we might not ever know the freedoms we enjoy," he said, adding, "All who benefited from their service have an obligation to remember the greatness of their deeds and the terrible sacrifice made by many of them. We owe them our gratitude, respect and love."
HONORED — Gerald “Peck” Blakley, left, a World War II veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, was recognized by Bill Haught, commander of Follansbee American Legion Post 45, as the longest serving member of the post. Blakley, who is 96, has been a member of the group for 69 years. -- Warren Scott
The names of local World War II and Korean War veterans who are current members of the post were read by Post 45 Commander Bill Haught and Richard McCullough, the post's financial officer.
Haught also recognized Gerald "Peck" Blakley, who is the longest serving member of the post. Blakley, who is 96, has been a member for 69 years.
As an Army Infantryman, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, a last-ditch effort by Adolph Hitler to ward off invading Allied troops in the forests of the Ardennes mountain region of Belgium near the war's end.
Though the Allied Forces won the lengthy battle, at least 19,000 Americans were killed and an estimated 47,500 were wounded.
Blakley was one of a small number charged with carrying radio equipment on his back.
He said there are many veterans who did as much as he, but he will accept the recognition on behalf of all of them.
Paesano noted he and Blakley had a mutual friend, the late James Lupinetti, who also served during World War II. Lupinetti had a chance to stay in the U.S. and instruct troops in the use of heavy weapons but wanted to join fellow soldiers in the fighting and was killed in action in France, he noted.
Representing the Vets for Veterans group, local veteran Tom McBride placed a wreath at the Cross Creek World War II Veterans Memorial not far from the post home.
Mick Mullen, the group's leader, said the members wanted to call attention to the monument, which lists hundreds of local men and women who served during the war.
Haught also recognized the many American service members whose fates are unknown because they are prisoners of war or missing in action.
He referred to a small table nearby on which were placed various symbols, including: a white tablecloth representing the purity of the lost service members' intentions; a rose in a vase representing the blood shed by them; a ribbon around the vase like those worn by the many family members and friends to remind others of those service members; and a candle representing their hope for their return.
Also participating was the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad, which delivered a military salute for the program, which ended with taps.
Charles Cline of Follansbee, an Army Korean War veteran who donned his dress uniform for the occasion, was among a number of veterans who turned out for the event.
Cline's father served in World War I and he himself was one of eight brothers who have served in the military, from World War II to Vietnam.
He said of the program, "It's great. I'd like to see more people participate, though."
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)