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Local Veterans Offer Sober Thoughts in Wheeling

Service closed to the public

WHEELING — The Veterans Day message from five local veterans in Wheeling on Wednesday was a sobering one. Representatives from American Legion Post 1, American Legion Post 89 and VFW Post 4442 sat at a table in the otherwise empty lobby of WesBanco Arena. Their voices echoed as each man vowed to do more to head off the rising number of suicides among their fellow veterans.

Navy veteran Vernon Anderson, commander of VFW Post 4442 in Elm Grove and former 2019-20 VFW State Commander, said, “Twenty-two vets a day committed suicide in 2019.

That number is starting to climb. We need to find out who they are before they do this.”

The lobby of WesBanco Arena was void of its usual crowd for the Wheeling Veterans Day service on Wednesday morning out of concern for the rise in COVID-19 cases in the area, said Mike Doyle, a retired Marine and Americanism chairman for Post 1.

Originally, the group had hoped to offer a virtual program, but that, too, was scrapped as the governor urged less than 10 people to gather in groups, said Navy veteran Chuck Hood, Post 1 commander.

Hood said Post 1, the oldest post in the country, is initiating “Buddy Check,” a plan to call all 300 members of its organization to see how they are doing during this increasingly difficult time.

“We want to make sure if they need help, they know we are here,” Hood said.

Demetrious Lathom, commander of American Legion Post 89 in Wheeling, also said his post is looking at added ways of addressing the needs of veterans, especially those who are isolated during this pandemic. Lathom, a 22-year Navy veteran, recently recovered from COVID-19 and said Veterans Day is “an important time to reflect.”

“A lot of things that go on today could not happen without the service of our veterans. I am proud to have served,”Lathom said.

During the scaled back observance, the five veterans stood and saluted the flag while Anderson distributed white paper poppies to reflect the 75th anniversary of VWF Post 4442.

Doyle expressed his appreciation to all veterans. “This day is a very somber time. To all vets out there, I love you all. I realize your sacrifice and those of their family members. These (veterans) are the people who gave us the right to vote.”

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