Tribute to Veterans Runs Through City

WHEELING – Veterans serving from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced adversity most Americans can only imagine.

So it is no wonder that in the face of unseasonably chilly and windy conditions, plenty of veterans turned out to march through Wheeling on Friday as part of the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Veterans Torch Relay.

The official kickoff for a weekend filled with race-related activities, the relay is designed to honor the contributions of veterans and their families, race Director R. “Scat” Scatterday said the event is “a serious tribute to those who have sacrificed.”

“In this country, we believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of anyone who messes with us,” he said.

The first group to carry the torch from the Osiris Shrine Temple west along National Road included Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, West Virginia Northern Community College President Martin Olshinsky and Triadelphia Middle School students Drew Scatterday and Zach Torbett. Several folks lined up along National Road and cheered on the four as they ran through Elm Grove.

Olshinsky said WVNCC is deeply engaged in the community, noting Northern is a very “veteran-friendly” college.

“This should be an adventure,” he added just before beginning the trek.

Schwertfeger said although he is not a veteran, he honors the contributions of the military, adding that his father is an Army veteran.

This group advanced the torch to the Interstate 70 overpass, where they passed the flame to Ohio County sheriff’s Deputies Kris Waechter and Jason Bracher-Musty near the point where Interstate 470 meets I-70.

Upon reaching the exit of Wheeling Park, Waechter and Bracher-Musty passed the torch to Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Mike VanKirk. Rather than dropping off, however, the deputies continued running alongside VanKirk all the way to Washington Avenue.

Once reaching Washington Avenue, VanKirk and the deputies passed the torch to John Looney, team leader at the Wheeling Vet Center, and Joe Foster, a Shadyside resident known for carrying a large U.S. flag while competing in the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Run.

When Looney and Foster reached the top of Chicken Neck Hill, Looney handed the torch to Wheeling Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge. Foster then walked with Delbrugge and her husband, Robert Delbrugge, making their way along National Road.

Upon reaching Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Delbrugge handed the torch to the team of Brenda Danehart, Rachael Dierkes, Colton Gessler and David Graebe. Foster continued marching with them. At Generations Restaurant & Pub, this group gave the torch to Army Sgt. Michael Novotney, who represented veterans of the Gulf War-era.

With Foster continuing to carry the flag alongside them, Novotney and fellow Gulf War-era veterans made the rigorous climb from Fulton to the peak of Wheeling Hill. Once reaching the former windmill on Stone Boulevard, Novotney handed the flame to a group of Vietnam veterans, led by Marine Corps Sgt. Steve Habursky.

Habursky then took the torch toward downtown, eventually handing off to Korean War veteran retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Koonce. At the former Lincoln School, Koonce handed the torch to World War II veteran retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Dale Sigler.

At age 87 years old, Sigler joined the group in marching all the way to the finish line at the intersection of 14th and Main streets. Looney rejoined the platoon at the Federal Building on Chapline Street as the unit finished the relay.

After Robert “Moose” Dodrill sang the national anthem, Looney stepped in as keynote speaker for a short recognition service.

“This is a time to strew some flowers on people’s memories. Tell the stories. That is what this weekend is for,” Looney told the crowd.

The service closed with the playing of “Taps” by members of the West Virginia Army National Guard, as well as the firing of a cannon.

Set to start at 8 a.m. today is the main event of the weekend, the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run. This challenging distance race known for its changes in elevation offers prizes in various categories, including Open, Masters and 2-person relays as well as various age groups.

The Half Marathon Walk steps off 30 minutes earlier at 7:30 a.m., while the 5K Run and 5K Walk for Health follow at 8:15 a.m. All of these events begin and end at 14th and Main streets and will be followed by an 11:30 a.m. results ceremony.

Proceeds from this year’s Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk will help the Augusta Levy Learning Center carry out its mission of helping children with autism reach their fullest potential and grow up to lead productive lives. The decision to partner with the North Wheeling center marks the fourth year the Ogden race has donated its proceeds to a local charitable cause that benefits local youth. The race in previous years has donated its proceeds and given support to the Miracle Field of the Ohio Valley and the Howard Corcoran Scholarship Fund through the Super Six Committee.

A “secure area” monitored by police and private security personnel surrounds the start-finish line at 14th and Main streets. The three points of the secure zone are formed by the intersections of 14th and Market streets, 12th and Water streets and Main and South streets.

Barricades are erected around the zone, and private security will staff six entry points to the secure area. These will be located at Water Street, just north of 14th Street; two on Main Street, one just north of 14th Street and one just south of the intersection; on 14th Street between Main and Market streets, in the area of Lane B; on South Street between WesBanco Arena and the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center; and at the South Street exit to the intermodal center.

No one with any type of bag, package or briefcase will be permitted past those checkpoints. Strollers also will not be allowed into the secure area, which will be in effect from from 6-10:30 a.m. today.