By May 29, 2017 Read More →

Veterans attend Memorial Day Cookout at Parkersburg’s City Park

By BRETT DUNLAP

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va.  — Many area veterans came out to a special picnic Sunday in Parkersburg to spend time with other veterans remembering their service and those with whom they served.

Di Moore of South Parkersburg Women’s Club fixes a hot dog for Army veteran Fred Fleming of Belpre on Sunday during the ninth annual Memorial Day Cookout to honor veterans held in City Park.
(Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Around 200 people attended the ninth annual Memorial Day Cookout to honor veterans at City Park in Parkersburg.

The cookout is a way of saying thank you to all of the veterans in the Mid-Ohio Valley, said Gary Farris, founder and director of the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley. This year, the museum held the picnic on Sunday, as opposed to Memorial Day on Monday, as organizers believed they would have a better turnout.

“Memorial Day itself is more of a remembrance for those who never returned,”Farris said.

This year’s picnic was put on with the help of the Daughters of the American Pioneers, Blennerhassett Daughters of the American Revolution, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1212, Deerwalk Veterans Association, the South Parkersburg Women’s Club and others.

“If it wasn’t for all of them, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Farris said. “It turned out well. We have had quite a few people here.

“We appreciate all of these people out here helping us.”

The Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley is located at 1829 Seventh St., and features the stories of many area veterans who served this country over the years as well as a number of items, uniforms, mementos and more from their service. The museum honors veterans who are still here and those who are not.

The museum will be open today for the holiday.

“This is just a way of honoring veterans and letting them come in and have a day for the veterans and their families,” Farris said of Sunday’s picnic. “They can eat and enjoy the company of other veterans.

“That is what this is, all for veterans.”

Many local veterans made it a point to come out to the picnic Sunday.

Fred Fleming, of Belpre, a veteran of the U.S. Army who served from 1964-1966, came with his friend Naomia Kaiden, whose husband served in the Army for 30 years.

“I am here to support everyone,” Fleming said.

They regularly support the American Legion and other veteran organizations and attend many events they have going on, Kaiden said.

Ted and Sue Jones, of Parkersburg, came to honor those who served. Ted served in the Army from 1963-1965.

“We thought we would come out and share with other people,” Sue said.

With the country going through so much lately, they wanted everyone to know they support the troops and all who served.

“We appreciate everyone who were in the service and fought for our freedom,”Sue said.

Rick Stanley, of Parkersburg, was a veteran of the U.S. Army who served from 1970-1973 as a mental health professional. He is still doing that work to this day as part of the Counseling and Wellness Center in Parkersburg. He runs regular groups for veterans who have PTSD, working with veterans who served in Vietnam as well as the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stanley said he wanted to come to the picnic to see what the different organizations had done to honor local veterans.

“All of these people have come together to make this happen,” he said.

Stanley also wanted to spend some time with fellow veterans around Memorial Day.

“It is a day set aside to honor those who had given their lives in the service of our country and for our freedom,” he said. “It also honors all veterans who have served.

“I am thankful to be here.”

Stanley struck up a conversation and got to know local World War II veteran Fred Carpenter.

Carpenter is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who went in 1943 and served in the Pacific until the war ended. He was on an ammunition ship, the USS Shasta, that sailed from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima to Sipan to Okinawa to the coast of Japan.

The ship was always on call and the sailors never got a leave during the campaigns leading up to the final surrender of the Japanese in 1945.

Carpenter, who will be 92 on July 4, was discharged in May 1946. He ended up working a number of jobs before landing a position at DuPont where he worked for 25 1/2 years, retiring 32 years ago. He raised a family locally with two children.

He was drafted into the service at the time.

“Uncle Sam said I had to serve,” he said with a laugh. “I am glad I did.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for it.”

Carpenter is also a cancer survivor who was told 23 years ago he only had four months to live.

“I am here for a reason,” he said.

Carpenter said this was his first time he had been to the picnic. In looking back at his service, Carpenter has lost a lot of friends.

“I think about them,” he said.

Being Memorial Day weekend, he wanted to honor those who weren’t here anymore.

“I am here to honor the veterans,” Carpenter said. “I had some good friends who ended up giving their lives.”

With Memorial Day today, Farris wanted to remind people to remember those who gave their lives for this country.

During World War II in the Pacific, an unknown Marine scratched something into a rock or a piece of wood that said, “We gave our todays so you can have your tomorrows.”

“That is what it is all about,” Farris said of Memorial Day.

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