Community, The Braxton Democrat

Ireland Community Re-Dedicates Veterans Memorial

Despite the cold temperatures, community supporters gathered at the Ireland Community Building on Sunday March 13th for the re-dedication of the Ireland Veterans Memorial. Colonel (Retired) Kevin Gregory, who happens to also be the current Ireland Lions Club President, officiated the ceremony. Gregory welcomed the crowd of over 65 members of the community and thanked them for attending the Ireland Veterans Memorial Re-Dedication and the Opening Ceremony of the 40th Irish Spring Festival.
The Irish Spring Festival is sponsored by the Ireland Community Educational Outreach Service (CEOS) Club and is their largest fundraiser each year. The festival’s opening ceremony is held on the Sunday before St Patrick’s Day. This year the Ireland CEOS Club agreed to share the ceremony with the Ireland Lion’s Club for the dedication of the Veterans memorial.
President of Ireland’s CEOS Club, Stephanie Singleton, said of the combined ceremonies, “This is such an important day for our community. The Memorial is a tribute to our local veterans and their service and is a reminder of the freedom we enjoy. Today, we feel almost liberated to bring back the Irish Spring Festival after cancelling for the last two years due to COVID. For the community of Ireland, this is a most appropriate combination of ceremonies. Speaking for the CEOS Club, we are honored to share the Irish Spring Festival Opening Ceremony with the Lions Club’s Veterans Memorial Dedication.”
The ceremony began by the raising of five flags in tribute of the United States, the state of West Virginia, those Missing in Action (MIA) and Prisoners of War (POWs), the community’s Irish heritage, and the Irish Spring Festival flag. Dwight Senter and Allen Gunter of the Lewis County Honor Guard raised our Nation’s colors while the Ireland United Methodist Church youth sang the National Anthem. Matt and Ariel Blackburn raised the West Virginia flag as the crowd joined in singing “Country Roads”. A moment of silence was observed as Ron Fisher and Virgil Vance of the Lewis County Honor Guard raised the MIA/POW flag. Jared and Stephanie Singleton raised the Ireland National Colors while all gathered sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. And lastly, reigning Irish Spring Festival King Bob Bleigh and Queen Sharrey Craig raised the Irish Spring Festival flag as the bell tolled 40 times, by Leonard McCray, in honor of the 40th year of the ISF, thus officially opening the 2022 Irish Spring Festival.
Bonnie Blackburn, assisted by her daughter Zoey Blackburn (keeping music sheets in place during the windy weather), and Denton “Buzz” King both provided the guitar accompaniment for the children during the singing. Those children present for the ceremony and members of the United Methodist Church youth group were Mason, Gavin, and Gracie Thorne, Lily Balser, Khloe Mace, Carly Singleton, Izaac and Eli Crislip, Brantlee Craig, and Grady Helmick.
Continuing with his remarks during the ceremony, Gregory said, “Over the last four centuries, our Nation has been challenged, first by its struggle for its own birth, to brothers fighting brothers, multiple world wars, Korea, Vietnam, by Operations Other Than War in Bosnia and Serbia, and over the past 20 years, a Global Battle against terrorism, where we saw our nation’s best at their best defending forward. On this wall are engraved over 350 names of veterans representing our community who stood in line for each of these conflicts. Veterans whose selfless service, and dedication to our nation and our way of life, is a small representative group of those who answered our nations call – who did not back down from those challenges.”
After commenting on the sacrifices of service and all the missed events of everyday life, Gregory quoted from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” speech. He concluded his comments and invited Carly Singleton, daughter of Jared and Stephanie Singleton, to share a reading of the poem “The Best on Earth: A Veteran’s Day Tribute” by Joanna Fuchs. The crowd remained in respectful silence as Arnold McCartney and Charlie Fornash of the Lewis County Honor Guard paid tribute to the monument with a symbolic “Laying of the Wreath”, thus officially re-dedicating the Ireland Veterans Memorial Wall. The ceremony ended with the playing of the Armed Forces Medley, representing the songs of each branch of military service.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Denton King, was asked why the Ireland Lions Club needed to repair the monument. “In 2004, the Ireland Lions Club funded and built the previous monument to honor the service of local Veterans. Unfortunately, over time and due to weather, the wall was damaged by plantings and began to lean considerably. It became apparent to us in the spring of 2019 that a complete repair would be necessary.” King continued to explain that the wall consisted of bricks that were carefully dismantled and cataloged. However, the repairs stalled when the club was unable to find a source for new engraved bricks to replace the damaged ones. “Thank the luck o’ the Irish that Jim heard of our problem and stepped up.” said King with a smile.
King was referring to Jim Newlon, a part-time local, that stepped forward and offered a solution to the club and offered to donate granite slabs for the memorial in place of bricks. Mr. Newlon owns Strata Granite and Marble in Canton, Ohio and donated the slabs of green granite to the Ireland Lions Club for the project. Kiddie Monuments of Weston was approached with the arduous task of engraving well over 35,000 characters on the slabs and assisted in mounting the granite on the wall as well. King expressed his gratitude to everyone who played a part in bringing the monument to fruition, including Strata Granite and Marble, Kiddie Monument, Bruffey Trucking (who donated gravel and hauling), the Ireland Lions Club, and the Ireland Community Educational Outreach Service Club. Closing, King said, “In particular, we want to thank the Lewis County Honor Guard, under the command of Bill Cayton, for being at this dedication today, and bringing the highest degree of professionalism and honor to our ceremony.”