Veterans and their families fill the streets of Ripley for annual Veterans Day celebration
RIPLEY — Terry O'Neil, an Army veteran from Ripley, had only one word to describe being on the stage at the Veterans Day ceremony looking out at the audience: Wow.
He had no idea Ripley's Veterans Day celebration existed until two months ago. He left town at 18 and now resides in Elizabethtown, Kentucky — he drove almost five hours to speak at Thursday's ceremony.
O'Neil served for nearly 23 years from 1974 to 1996 in the Army Chemical Corps. He's never experienced anything like Ripley's Veterans Day celebration.
This year's lead speaker at the ceremony was Ripley Police Chief and Air Force veteran Brad Anderson. As leaves were carried across the courthouse lawn by a gentle fall breeze, Anderson thanked his fellow veterans for their service.
"Some say a superhero has superpowers like flying, wears a cape," Anderson said. "But the true hero wears the American flag on the shoulder of their uniform."
Since 2010, Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader has organized the Veterans Day celebration. This year's parade saw the largest turnout with "well over" 700 veterans honored, Rader said.
Rader's patriotism is rooted in her personality because her father was a marine. Rader's goal is for everyone who lives in or even visits Ripley to feel patriotism in the community.
"When someone says they're from Ripley, West Virginia we want them to say, 'That's probably the most patriotic city in America' or at least east of the Mississippi," Rader said.
The most heartwarming part about this year's gathering for Rader was seeing four World War II veterans, who were the guests of honor at the very first Veterans Day Parade 11 years ago.
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.