MOUNDSVILLE - Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Morgan always makes sure to remind his men of the legacy which they are expected to carry on.
"You stand on the shoulders of giants," he tells them.
Many of those "giants" were in the audience during the Ohio Valley Cost of Freedom Tribute on Friday in Moundsville.
Hershel “Woody” Williams, the only living West Virginia Medal of Honor Recipient signs a copy of the famous World War II photograph, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” during Cost of Freedom ceremonies in Moundsville.
The tribute includes war memorabilia along with the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Replica on display today through 3 p.m. Sunday at the former West Virginia State Penitentiary on Jefferson Avenue.
Morgan said he remembers the image of veterans returning from service in the Vietnam War and being spat on. But at the same time, he can remember a Christmas he spent away from home and received thoughtful cards from American school children.
Morgan said he is well aware of the difference between the veterans who saw active war and those currently serving with vigilance. In the history of the world, he said, few generations have been able to serve in the military just to protect the cause of freedom.
"Thank you for paying my generation's fare. We will continue to respect you for it, and pay it forward," he said.
In closing, Morgan said for freedom there is a price to pay and a proud legacy to represent. Though humbled by the generations that came before, he and others like him swore to carry on the mission with honor.
Next to the podium was Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, who praised Marshall County and West Virginia for its example of patriotism this weekend.
"We understand as West Virginians the importance of living in free society," he said, noting more than 36,000 West Virginians served in the Vietnam War.
During the political rivalry of another election year, he said, there are no "Ds" or "Rs" on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. While speaking about the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica, Kessler said it provides an opportunity for both veterans and younger people to reflect on the sacrifice of U.S. military personnel. The sleek black stone shines in the sun he said, and "our faces reflect back at us to demonstrate the sacrifice of veterans. Freedom is not free. The names on that wall are a reminder of the cost of freedom."
Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, a former middle school teacher and Vietnam veteran, said he used to organize trips to Washington, D.C. with his students to see the Vietnam Memorial Wall there. While looking at how many casualties there were, he would tell his students that the amount of names on the wall could fill WVU's football stadium.
Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall, said he was humbled to be a part of the Cost of Freedom tribute, and those involved in organizing it deserve to be commended.
"All anyone has to do is look around to see that patriotism does exist in Marshall County," he said.
He quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying that his words fit the occasion perfectly when he said, "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far beyond our poor power to add or detract." Ferro concluded by saying, "May those whose names are on the wall rest in peace, and may those who serve now live in peace."
The last speaker was Moundsville Vice Mayor Eugene Saunders whose family has served in the military for several generations.
"This Ohio Valley is well known for being a birthplace for patriotic heroes," he said.
He mentioned Marshall County has produced 56 Purple Heart veterans; Ohio County, 87; and Brooke County, 41. But while some have received medals and others have gotten their names on walls, Saunders said there are many unsung heroes that we do not hear about but who still deserve to be honored. For all veterans everywhere he said, "They have paid and are paying the cost of freedom."
Saunders' son is currently serving in the 82nd Airborne Division. Master Sgt. Eugene Saunders Jr. won the Bronze Star for service in Iraq, and continues to serve now as an instructor at Fort Lee, Va.