By LEAH TATE
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Veterans and city officials united on Sunday to honor the many service members who have contributed and continue to contribute to the country’s freedom and peace of mind.
In collaboration with New Albany’s 200th birthday, the Bicentennial Commission recognized local veterans in Bicentennial Park with speakers and a flag ceremony. Accompanying the ceremony, were booths set up in the MainSource Bank parking lot with businesses and organizations promoting services offered to veterans, such as post-service mental health, substance abuse and readjustment to civilian life services.
Marine veteran Don Harshey, who helped organize the event, said it was important to honor local veterans in conjunction with New Albany’s Bicentennial.
“We’re honoring anybody who served, bearing the scars or not, who made the ultimate sacrifice for American’s desire to be free,” Harshey said.
The bicentennial veterans’ event was held in addition to the city’s annual Veterans Day ceremony held at the War Memorial Plaza on Monday.
New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan also helped kick off the event in Bicentennial Park Sunday.
“I’m not sure we can celebrate the veterans enough with Monday’s event in addition to today’s event,” Gahan said.
Floyd County Superior Court 3 Judge Maria Granger explained the need for a smarter response to veterans getting into trouble after war.
“Veterans need to be held accountable but also need stability and adjustment,” Granger said.
In response, Granger started the Veterans Court, a special court for troubled veterans transitioning into civilian life that addresses rehabilitation opposed to incarceration.
Douglas Paxton Sr., Amy veteran and associate director of the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Louisville, also honored fellow veterans during the event.
“For the Department of Veterans Affairs, every day is Veterans Day,” Paxton said as he explained the many services the hospital provides, including substance abuse treatment and programs designed to end veterans’ homelessness.
Paxton noted during the service that, “The freedom we enjoy, was not free.”
John Prow, 67, Navy aviation veteran and Chef de Gare commander of the 40 & 8 veteran’s organization in New Albany, said the additional Veterans Day event held at Bicentennial Park is important in promoting military and veteran awareness. Prow served from 1964 to 1968 during the Vietnam War and said many people do not understand the price service members paid for freedoms they have today.
“Our education system is doing better with teaching younger generations about the military and what they experienced during and after war,” Prow said. “There is a lot more awareness now.”
The Veterans Day event in Bicentennial Park wrapped up with the playing of “Taps” and a “Strike the Colors” flag ceremony by the New Albany police and fire departments.
The American Legion Riders Honor Guard left the event with stuffed animals and toys in tow, en route to their Toys for Tots destination, and veteran Hugh Bir and Friends played music after the ceremony.
Veterans Day ceremonies continued in Clarksville Sunday at the War Memorial in the backyard of the Clarksville Town Hall. The War Memorial was dedicated to Clarksville citizens who died during war and lists their names, branch of military and what war they killed. The event was hosted by the Clarksville Historical Society War Memorial Committee with patriotic music sang by Gayle Dautaz.
Navy veteran, author and newspaper columnist Terry Cummins was the guest speaker who shared stories of local veteran heroes who were either related to him or whom he had met at some point in his life, that weren’t officially deemed heroes but were heroes in their own right through their service.
Veterans from each branch of the military were recognized prior to the conclusion of the Veterans Day event, which ended with the playing of Taps and a 21 Gun Salute by the American Legion Post 204 Honor Guard.
Don McDonough, Air Force veteran and board member with the Clarksville Historical Society, said it’s important people understand what veterans experienced.
“I don’t want people to forget about the war conditions and the grief and sorrow they went through for our freedom,” McDonough said.