As the number of female military veterans in America increases, so too must the nation's focus on ensuring their needs are met, according to Ohio County Commissioner Orphy Klempa.
That means increased attention to issues such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and domestic violence, he said Monday during Wheeling's annual Veterans Day Ceremony at WesBanco Arena.
"America is home to more than 1.2 million women veterans, and we owe them our support," Klempa said.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Jim Hall, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 709, left, speaks with MOPH Chapter 709 trustee John Miller prior to Monday’s Veterans Day ceremony at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
But all veterans, he stressed - man or woman, combat-tested or peacetime - deserve their country's admiration for their willingness to risk everything. He noted it's impossible to know how many threats have been averted - and as a result, lives saved - by their very presence.
"You sincerely have this citizen's deepest respect and admiration," Klempa said.
Klempa urged everyone to watch for signs of unhappiness or depression in their loved ones who are veterans, and make sure those who exhibit those signs know that organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans Affairs and others are there to help them.
Even a simple "thank you" shouldn't be underestimated as a reassurance their sacrifice and selflessness haven't been forgotten, he added.
"It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels his or her service to our country is appreciated by their fellow Americans," Klempa said.
Also participating in Monday's ceremony were Joe Fatigati, American Legion Post 1 commander; Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 709 Commander Jim Hall; Marine Corps League Commandant John Nanny; Jill Robbins of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 1; American Legion Post 89 Chaplain Bill Fuller; Sara Delong of the VA Center in Bethlehem; Post 1 Service Officer Michael Novotney; Post 1 Vice Commander John Powell; John Brafchak of Post 1; Post 1 Chaplain Larry Bloomfield; and musician D. David Stiles.
The event included patriotic music, prayer and the traditional "empty chair" ceremony to honor those taken as prisoners of war or killed or missing in action.
Pat Duffy of the Wheeling Elks Lodge 28 - known for his commitment to the Elks motto, "So long as there are veterans, they shall never be forgotten" - remarked he's seen an increasingly positive response to veterans, both in the schools and the community at large, in recent years.
"I'm just really happy this is going on. ... We have forgotten these guys for so many years, and we just can't do it anymore," Duffy said.