PIQUA — Chilly weather did not keep the local community from turning out at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to recognize veterans and their sacrifices.
The Piqua Veterans’ Association held the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Piqua Veterans Memorial, which is adjacent to Forest Hill Cemetery, Saturday morning with guest speaker and Piqua veteran Harry Ashburn.
“Today let us honor all veterans, both male and female,” Ashburn said.
Ashburn enlisted in the U.S. Army in October 1942. He served with the 3349th Quartermaster Truck Company, which was involved with campaigns in the Solomon Islands at New Georgia and Bouganville. Later, his company participated in the invasion of Luzon in the Philippine Islands and the capture of Manila.
After the war, Ashburn attended Otterbein College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history, followed by a master of education degree from Ohio University. He served as a teacher and administrator in Ohio schools for 36 years, including his final 19 years as principal for Bennett Junior High School in Piqua.
Ashburn encouraged those in attendance to honor veterans by helping them.
“Find a way to help,” he said, suggesting volunteering with Veterans’ Affairs or another veterans’ organization. “There are families of those who could use the help in many different ways.”
Ashburn recalled a time when an anonymous person paid for his groceries and the cashier said, “Someone did this to thank you for your service.”
Ashburn also suggested people could simply thank veterans for their service.
“That gives me a very warm feeling,” he said.
In addition, Ashburn encouraged veterans to share their stories.
Ashburn, originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, remembers growing up during the Great Depression and serving during World War II.
“I never recall missing a meal … but I do remember times where I wished there was a little more on the table,” Ashburn said. He added that he once missed a week of school because he did not have shoes to wear.
He said his generation, which he said some refer to as the “greatest generation,” simply “do what is called upon us to do.” For Ashburn, that included serving in WWII as an Army corporal.
“I had the honor of serving my country,” Ashburn said.
Ashburn went on to talk about his love of the U.S. “I still get a thrill out of hearing our national anthem,” he said.
Ashburn also said how he liked the phrase “God bless America” and thought of it as a request or prayer.
“I will take a back seat to no one in my love for my country,” he said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336