Realizing who heroes are

Realizing who heroes are

Image Credit: Dave Mast

On Monday, May 30, a nation celebrated Memorial Day, honoring the many who gave their lives in serving their country.

Countless communities large and small joined in remembrance, but for one presenter in Millersburg, it was a special time of sharing about his own personal hero while also honoring the many.

American Legion Post 192 hosted a Memorial Day Parade and ceremony at 8:30 a.m. The color guard honored Peter Myers, a hero who served in three wars, in a graveside service at 8:30 a.m. at the Clay Street Park in Millersburg. The ceremony proceeded from there to Oak Hill Cemetery.

The West Holmes High School marching band joined the Post 192 color guard in leading those in attendance to the cemetery, where there was a presentation featuring U.S. Army veteran and Holmes County Veterans Services Director Brandon Irving. In addition, there was a 21-gun salute volley and presentation by the color guard.

After arriving at Oak Hill Cemetery, Craig Lawhead, commander at Holmes Post 192 in Millersburg, welcomed the crowd in attendance and then introduced keynote speaker Irving. Before doing so, Lawhead expressed his gratitude for those who took the time to pay their respect for fallen warriors this Memorial Day.

“I appreciate everyone here,” Lawhead said, “for taking the time to attend this ceremony. May the ceremonies of today keep our reverence for our departed friends and members. Let us renew our pledge of loyalty to our country and its flag. Let us resolve, by word and deed, to emphasize the privilege and duty of patriotism.”

The son of a Vietnam veteran who served two deployments there, Irving felt led to enlist at the age of 27, deciding it was his turn to join the U.S. Army.

From 2004-06, he served at Camp Crawford in Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that time Irving worked with other interpreters in the trials of Saddam Hussein and other prisoners who were in custody. He then served from 2008-09 in Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq as a first-sergeant clerk. He served a total of 10 years including time in the Ohio National Guard, concluding his service in 2014.

Irving said those in attendance were all there to honor and remember those heroes who gave their lives in service, noting sacrifices in the name of duty, honor and country are the ultimate sacrifice.

“Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day,” Irving said. “It’s not a lot, but it’s one small way to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.”

Irving said while those who served and died while serving didn’t do it for recognition or fame, they would have been blessed to know Americans everywhere were gathering to honor their brothers and sisters in arms.

“We gather together as a new family to remember not only our fallen soldiers and veterans, but to also support the people around them, to start our new network of friends and family, and to carry out our heroes’ stories through memories and conversation,” Irving said.

Irving then went from a nation full of those who served and gave their all to singling in on one hero who made him who he is today: his father.

Calling his father his hero, Irving said he served in Vietnam for 18 months. He said when he was a child, he never fully understood what his father did or why he chose to serve. He said he actually resented his father for being the man he was.

However, once he was old enough to understand what service meant, he began to gain valuable insight.

“I started to realize what a hero was to me,” Irving said. “It was my father.”

At the age of 18, Irving’s father chose to enlist in the U.S. Army, understanding the dangers that were ahead, the possible risk of serving during tumultuous times.

“Still a child, my father went off to another country to defend something he couldn’t understand,” Irving said. “He faced tragedies we only read about in books or see in movies but still never spoke of them or complained about what he did. He held his head so high and proud and continued to fight through life to defend my life, my brothers and sisters’ lives, and provided for what we needed. It may not have been much at the time, but looking back today, he gave us everything he had.”

Irving said when he turned 27 years old, it became evident he needed to stand in his father’s shoes, follow his example and devote himself to serving others in the name of freedom.

“I needed to stand tall and proud, just like my father,” Irving said.

He said his father is just one example of what a hero looks like.

“He is why I am so proud of who I am today and what I do,” Irving said.

While a nation honors all of its servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate price, true honor also can come by cherishing the memory of one. After all, it is one that makes up the many who protect the nation in the name of freedom.