Hundreds of people turned out last week to visit the Traveling Korean War Memorial and attend a ceremony honoring veterans at Washington’s Riverfront Park in Ravenswood.
The ceremony took place Saturday at the band stand and including music by the 249th Army Band of the West Virginia National Guard, as well as numerous speakers.
The memorial is a replica of the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.
Ravenswood parks and recreation Superintendent Katrena Ramsey said she wanted to give veterans a chance to see the traveling memorial.
“Many veterans have never been able to make the journey to Washington,” she said.
Brian McCommon is president of the Ravenswood Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners (BOPARC) and was master of ceremonies on Saturday.
“The City of Ravenswood is honored to have veterans from the Korean Conflict, as well as numerous other veterans, in attendance,” he said.
The Charleston Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol acted as Color Guard for the ceremony and included two local youths, Brady McCommon of Ravenswood and Dharma Thomas of Ripley.
VFW Post 6669 and 5501, as well as American Legion Post 107 and the West Virginia Marine Corps League, also participated in the event.
McCommon said it was pleasing to see so many participate in bringing the memorial to Ravenswood and gratifying to see so many come out to appreciate it.
“Some of our veterans are serving in the official firing party. We had veterans from 6669 serving in the Thursday overnight escort to the memorial,” McCommon said. “The Ravenswood High School football team showed up on Thursday to physically help set up the memorial.”
The Ravenswood Fire Department and the Ravenswood Police Department also contributed. Boy Scout Troop 43 of Ravenswood camped out at Washington’s Riverfront Park during the weekend to guard the memorial and greet visitors. They also handed out informational brochures and directed traffic during the ceremony on Saturday.
Bee Haven Supply donated a wreath that was given to Mary Lou Robinson, whose twin brother was killed in action during the Korean War.
Mayor Josh Miller said he was pleased by the turnout.
“The City of Ravenswood is thrilled to have so many locals in attendance and we thank those who traveled from far away today. We’ve had folks from as far away as Tennessee and Pennsylvania,” he said.
Hosting the memorial was the city’s small way of thanking the soldiers and their families who make great sacrifices for freedom, Miller said.
“Thank you to those who answered your nation’s call and thank you to the families who have made such incredible sacrifices. You aren’t thanked enough and we hope that hosting the memorial this week and holding this ceremony today will serve as a small way for us to show our gratitude to you,” Miller said.
Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader also was invited to speak at the ceremony.
“How can we say thank you enough to those who left their families to protect all of us?” Rader said. “The soldier, above all others, prays for peace. For it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. We forever hope you will know that you are remember and, trust me, never forgotten.”
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt, also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was one of the guests of honor and keynote speakers at the ceremony. Leonhardt said he was particularly proud to recognize the families of service members, who often must make sacrifices that rival those of military members.
“I could not leave home, anytime we visited, or get off the telephone without my mother saying, ‘Keep your head down.’ So I was very grateful when these speakers mentioned the sacrifices of the families. My wife went through a lot, even a house burglary, when I was over in a combat zone. They go through a lot for us so we can do our duties and serve,” he said.
Brigadier General Christopher Walker is an assistant adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard and is commander of the West Virginia Air National Guard. He also was a keynote speaker at the memorial ceremony. He discussed he importance of partnerships and alliances both at home and abroad in times of both peace and war. He noted that many countries contributed personnel and resources to the Korean Conflict
“Just liked trusted partnerships enabled the U.S. coalition to kick butt overseas, trusted partnerships with employers, community leaders, neighbors, are our center of gravity and our key for success abroad and here and home,” he said.
Saturday’s events were concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony honoring, Carl West, a Ravenswood native son who was killed in action during the Korean War. His twin sister, Mary Lou Robinson, participated.
West graduated from Ravenswood High School in 1950 and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He later served as a tail-gunner aboard B-52s in the Korean War. On Oct. 23, 1951, he was assigned as a replacement waist gunner on an 11-man crew whose mission was to bomb a North Korean air field. West’s B-29 was hit by a Korean MIG. While some of the crew survived, West did not.
West Was honored during Saturday’s ceremony with a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps.
Several political figures also attended Saturday’s ceremony, including Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Delegates Josh Higginbotham and Steve Westfall, Jackson County Commissioners Mitch Morrison and Mike Randolph, a representative of Sen. Joe Manchin, Circuit Judge Anita Ashley, Legislative Director Bob Ashley, and a representative from Congressman Alex Mooney’s office.
Sponsors of the memorial included the West Virginia Humanities Council; Jackson County Historical Society; Douple P. Holdings Inc.; WV Rentals Inc.; Ochel Daniels (Vietnam veteran); Mike Randolph (Jackson County Commission and American Legion Post 107); Dave and Trudy Clegg; Danny and Jane Mitchell (Vietnam veteran); Patricia and Harold Lee and Sandra Smith (in honor of Bob Nichols, Arol Squires and Ralph Metz, Korean War veterans); the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6669; the Ravenswood Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners; the City of Ravenswood; Bee Haven Supply; James and Nancy Randolph; and Boy Scouts of America Troop 43.