Adjutant General Hoyer, former POW Lynch give accolades to patriotic Ripley celebration

RIPLEY - The iconic Budweiser Clydesdales were stars of the Friday morning parade through Ripley, but the day belonged to military veterans and honored them for their service and sacrifices on their special day—Veterans Day.

The procession which featured over 100 units included the now traditional Military March of veterans and loved ones carrying vintage photo posters of veterans living and dead, who answered the call to arms. Many veterans from many conflicts rode or walked in the procession, which included the Ripley Viking Band, a giant American flag carried by Viking and Lady Viking basketball players and the Clydesdales pulling the signature Budweiser wagon completed with uniformed drivers, Dalmation mascot and Major General James A. Hoyer, Adjutant General of West Virginia. 

Keynote speaker for the following ceremonies on the Courthouse Square and former Iraqi POW Jessica Lynch was in the parade, along with a host of pageant royalty and much more.

The parade route was packed with spectators, 10 deep or more for almost the entire length of the route north on Church Street and then west on Main Street to West Ripley. The turnout rivaled that for the annual Fourth of July Grand Parade.

In his remarks on the Courthouse Square, Major General Hoyer gave accolades to the City of Ripley and to all those who turned out for the patriotic event to honor veterans. Hoyer also offered his and his family’s personal thanks to those who have answered the call to arms.

Hoyer said his son is on active duty abroad and has expressed disappointment about the recent political melee leading up to the General Election last week. The Adjutant General said he planned to send photos from Veterans Day in Ripley to his son to show him that patriotism and appreciation for military service and sacrifice is still alive and well.

Hoyer also specifically offered his thanks and humble appreciation to the two Gold Star Mothers in attendance—mothers who had lost sons in combat.

Jessica Lynch of Palestine, the keynote speaker for the ceremony, was delayed in getting back to the courthouse due to the gridlock from the parade. She was eventually brought back from west Ripley by a Ripley Police Department unit.

Lynch, a former Quartermaster Corps Private First Class (PFC) in the United States Army, was a prisoner of war of the Iraqi military in the 2003 invasion of Iraq who was rescued by United States forces on April 1, 2003. Lynch’s was the first successful rescue of an American POW since World War II and the first ever of a woman. 

Lynch, then a 19-year-old supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company (based in Fort Bliss, Texas), was injured and captured by Iraqi forces after her group made a wrong turn and was subsequently ambushed on March 23, 2003 near Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates River northwest of Basra. She was initially listed as missing in action (MIA). Eleven other soldiers in the company were killed in the ambush. She was rescued in an operation on the hospital where held that included Special Forces and Navy Seals.

Lynch also gave kudos to Ripley for its patriotism, its honoring of military veterans and for inviting her to speak on the very special occasion of Veterans Day.

Lynch said it is important to not only thank veteransfor their service on this special day, but to support programs that help veterans adjust and cope with what they have experienced after their service.

Ripely Mayor Carolyn Rader offered welcoming remarks and introduced Major General Hoyer, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.

American Legion 107 Chaplain Clarence Canterbury offered the blessing and benediction prayers.

Members of the Ripley High School Chorus under the direction of Annie Hancock sang the “National Anthem.”

Baylee Keeler and Kaycee McCoy, Fairplain Elementary School students, recited the Preamble to the Constitution.

Isaac Creel of Fairplain Elementary School delivered a patriotic speech.

Former Ripley High School band director Fred Batten sang “God Bless America.”

The Jackson County Children’s Chorus under the direction of Rita Douglas sang “God Bless the USA.”

A 21-gun salute by a veterans honor squad, Taps and the placing of a wreath by the Gold Star Mothers concluded the ceremony.