Kiwanis Club of Irvine-Ravenna and Richmond Support Vets Welcome Home Celebration

The Kiwanis Club of Irvine-Ravenna, KY and the Kiwanis Club of Richmond, KY are principal supporter of the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration scheduled for August 3rd through August 6th at the Battlefield Park, 4252 Battlefield Memorial Highway in Richmond, KY. The event will feature a speech by Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, a display of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, aerial flyovers, and a variety of musical events (see story below).

The inspiration and organization of this event can primarily be credited to Richmond Kiwanian Ray DeSloover who worked for nine months to create this event. Ray said that many military returning home from past wars were not properly recognized by their home communities and home states and that he hoped that this attempt to provide recognition to all veterans would help to remedy this past omission.

One of the responsibilities for having the Vietnam Memorial Wall displayed is to provide a 24 hour guard for it. Members from both the Kiwanis Club of Irvine-Ravenna, KY and the Kiwanis Club of Richmond, KY will serve in that capacity. Above is a photo of the mobile wall on display in Georgia. It is half of the size of the original wall in Washingtron, D.C.

The schedule of events is as follows:

Thursday - August 3

Noon - Josh Logan

1:00 p.m. - Jim Miller

2:30 p.m. - 12 Gauge

4:00 p.m. - John Russell

5:00 p.m. - Welcoming Ceremony
Presentation of the colors
National Anthem performed by Nora Lee Gill
Invocation by Rev. Bill Fort
Recognition of all veterans
Introduction of Local, State, and Federal Officials
Comments by Brian Duffy, KY VFW 
Women in the Military
Music by Heather French Henry
Introduction of General Beavers and Governor Fletcher
Recognition of Medal of Honor Recipients
Recognition of Franklin D. Walker, Tuskegee Airman
Benediction by Rev Hamilton Valentine

7:00 p.m. - Taps at the Vietnam Wall performed by Jeff Hatmaker

7:10 p.m. - Mick Diesel

8:00 p.m. - Jim Miller

9:30 p.m. - The Basics

Friday - August 4

Noon - Park opens

1:00 p.m. - Dan Brock

2:00 p.m. - Nora Lee Gill

3:00 p.m. - Bradley Burtner

5:00 p.m. - Medal of Honor Ceremony
Presentation of the colors
National Anthem performed by Nora Lee Gill
Invocation by Brother Mark Sarver
Welcome & Recognition of all veterans
Swearing in of recruits
Recognition & Presentations to Medal of Honor Recipients
John Baker Jr. - South Carolina - U.S. ARMY - Vietnam
Donald Ballard - Missouri - U.S. NAVY - Vietnam
Rudy Hernandez - North Carolina - U.S. ARMY - Korea
James Livingston - South Carolina - U.S. MARINE CORPS - Vietnam
Ron Rosser - Ohio - U.S. ARMY - Korea
Ernest E. West  - Kentucky - U.S. ARMY - Korea

6:00 p.m. - Talk about the book 'DOC'

6:10 p.m. - Pulaski County Drill Team - Taps at the Vietnam Wall performed by Jeff Hatmaker

6:30 p.m. - Original Sin

7:30 p.m. - Hasty Street Band

9:00 p.m. - Confederate Railroad

Saturday - August 5

9:00 a.m. - Park Opens

9:45 a.m. - Nora Lee Gill

10:45 a.m. - Liberty Zion

11:45 a.m. - Brad Burchett

12:45 p.m. - The Journeymen

1:45 p.m. - Brandy Norman

2:45 p.m. - Scott Johnson

3:30 p.m. - Janie Fricke

5:00 p.m. - Presentation of the colors

5:00 p.m. - Recognition of fallen Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq soldiers
National Anthem performed by Brandy Norman
Invocation by Reverend Tiger Pennington
Guest speaker Wayne O. Smith
Award of Kentucky Colonel Certificate & Mug to Wayne Smith

6:30 p.m. - Reenlistment of Sgt. Brad Hadden

6:45 p.m. - Reading of the names -

Flyover of Navy T-45 trainers.

21 Gun Salute


7:30 p.m. - Tim Hellard

9:00 p.m. - Aaron Tippin

Sunday - August 6

Noon - Park opens

1:00 p.m. - National Anthem performed by Madison Central Band

2:15 p.m. - Air Show featuring the Trojan Horsemen T-28 Warbird Aerobatic Formation Demonstration Team

5:00 p.m. - Closing Ceremony & Retiring of the colors

5:15 p.m. - Celebration Ends

Major espenses of the event include bringing the mobile wall to Kentucky, paying for insurance for the flyovers, and other expenses associated with bringing entertainers to the event.

In addition to the two local Kiwanis Clubs the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration has been supported by the Allen Company, American Legion Aux #88, American Legion Post 9, Arlio Taylor Angle Ridge Fox Den, Barry Metcalf, Beatyville Community Fund Raiser, Berea Walmart, Best Western Holiday Inn, Bill & Geneva James, Booge Jones Realty, Carole Kincaid, Central Kentucky Surg., Charey Lumber Co., DAV chapter 160, Don Begley Autosales, Dwight McMullins, E. Marshall's Autoparts, Earl Alexander, Golden Corral, H. D. Rally, Indigo Running, J.D. Bowman, J.D. Hicks, James Roach, James R. Dunaway, Jesse Crabtree, Jim Beam, Kathleen Hines, Kentucky Commercial Realty, Laminated Timbers Inc, Larry & Lynn Bauer, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, Lundys, Madison Bank, Madison County Veterans Community, Madison County Board of Realtors, Marvin M. Bauer, Marvin L. Bauer, Marvin &Yvonne Bauer, McDonalds, Mike & Phillis Adams, Neace Lukens Ins., Park Federal Credit Union, Pearl Drake, Porter Bavcorp inc., RB & Cheryle Geiger, Richmond Walmart, Richmond Kiwanis Club, Robert & Ann Curtis, Scott & Luann Bauer, Simonin Realty, Stephen Mays, Sword Floyd & Moody, Tenth District Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Grafic Edge, Thomas & King Appliances, Three forks VFW Post 11296, Tim Bauer, Tokico USA, Vencill Rentals, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 680, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8019, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5427, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7098, W.G. Glouse, and William Ramsey.

For directions to the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration click here

Big names to perform at veterans celebration
By Bryan Marshall
Register News Writer

RICHMOND - Among the military flyovers and special guest speakers, more than 20 musicians and bands will provide entertainment this weekend at the four-day Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration at Battlefield Park.

Country star Aaron Tippin, whose first single, "You've Got to Stand for Something," cracked the top 10 in 1991 and allowed him to entertain the troops in the Persian Gulf with Bob Hope, will be Saturday's headline performer.

Tippin, whose patriotic anthem, "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly," became a hit in the wake of 9/11, will hit the stage at 9 p.m.

Earlier in the day, popular country singer Janie Fricke will perform at 3:30 p.m., just prior to the 5 p.m. welcome and recognition of the veterans.

Fricke had six number one hits in the early 1980s, including "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby," "It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy," and "Tell Me a Lie."

The big draw on Friday will be the honky-tonk styling of The Confederate Railroad, who have sold nearly 5 million albums with hits such as "Queen Of Memphis," "Trashy Women," and "Jesus And Mama."

Named the Academy of Country Music's Best New Group in 1993 and a multi-Grammy nominated band, The Confederate Railroad will conclude the night with their 9 p.m. concert.

Their current line-up includes vocalist/guitarist Danny Shirley, drummer Mark DuFresne, bassist Wayne Secrest, Gates Nichols on steel guitar and vocals, lead guitarist Jimmy Dormire and keyboardist/vocalist Cody McCarver.

"I think it's going to be great," Aaron Francis, stage manager/coordinator, said about the lineup. "There's a lot of bluegrass and country, but there's also a group of young guys from Berea called 12 Gauge that are high-school age and they have more of a southern rock feel to them."

Fans also will be able to meet their favorite star at an autograph booth, he said.

"The big names have been very generous," Francis said. "I've been e-mailing back and forth Aaron Tippin's people and Confederate Railroad. Janie Fricke calls personally asking about her stage gear and things. So, they've really been user-friendly and not all big stars. It's going to be a blast. I can't wait."

One local up-and-coming country musician also will have the opportunity to open up for Tippin on Saturday.

With his band Sugarcane, Tim Hellard, 35, of Berea, will perform at 7:30 p.m. The 1989 Madison Southern graduate is used to big crowds.

He has previously opened for Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Jo Dee Messina, Billy Currington and other country stars.

"I'm really excited," he said. "This is something I really wanted to do - anything to contribute. I headline a Sept. 11 benefit every year in Lexington. Anytime you have the opportunity to open up for somebody who is big and it's for a good cause, I'm there every time."

A music lover since he was a kid, Hellard started playing drums when he was 10, guitar at age 14 and he started singing at 20.

During the past year and a half, he has been making three trips a week to Nashville to play music and meet with publishing companies, record companies and music producers.

Hellard's Web site - - has had 500 to 700 daily downloads of his music.

While the winner of the 2005 Battle of the Bands at Austin City Saloon in Lexington has not met Tippin yet, he has plans to pick him up to lift weights together when he gets in town.

"I'd love to write something with him," Hellard said. "It's exciting to be able to just hang out with him."

Other musicians scheduled include: Thursday, Josh Logan, Jim Miller, 12 Gauge, John Russell, Basics and former Miss Kentucky and 2000 Miss American Heather French; Friday, Dan Brock, Nora Lee Gill, Bradlee Burtner, Sandy Creek Boys and the Hasty Street Band; Saturday, Nora Lee Gill, Liberty Zion, Brad Burchett, Journeymen, Brandy Norman and Scott Johnson; and Sunday, Madison Central Band.

For a complete schedule of events for the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration, go to

Published: July 31, 2006

Vietnam prisoner is speaker
By Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

Richmond native Wayne O. Smith, who as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and held in a cell next to John McCain, now U.S. senator from Arizona, will be the keynote speaker for the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration, Aug. 3-6.

Smith, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher and former Miss America Heather French Henry will be joined by country music stars Aaron Tippin, Janie Fricke and Confederate Railroad in a salute to Kentucky's military veterans at Battle Field Park.

Veterans and casualties of the Vietnam War will be in the spotlight as a traveling model of the Vietnam War will be brought to the park for the event.

Smith lived in Richmond and attended Model Laboratory School through the eighth grade. After he completed the eighth grade, Smith's mother moved him and his sister to Louisville, where he graduated from Eastern High in 1961.

"My mom was a single parent and worked at J.C. Penney's while we lived in Richmond," Smith said in a recent interview from his home in Naples, Fla. "We still have some family back in Richmond. Glenmore Jones (who writes columns for the Register) is my uncle. He was a father figure for me growing up."

Smith's mother, Mary Hieronymous, died in 1972. His sister, Ann Smith Groder, lives in Louisville.

Smith's visit to Kentucky in August will be emotional for him in several ways. In addition to the Veteran's homecoming, he also will be attended his 45th high school class reunion. And he will observe his 63rd birthday Aug. 10.

After completing high school, Smith attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, graduating in 1965. He spent the next two years in active duty training in Georgia and Florida before shipping out to a U.S. base in Thailand from which he flew F 4D fighters on missions to Vietnam.

Smith flew 90 missions in Southeast Asia before being shot down Jan. 18, 1968. He was captured and held by the North Vietnamese until his release more than five years later in March 1973. He was one of about 1,300 American aviators shot down during the war and one of about 700 taken prisoner.

During part of his captivity, when he and other U.S. prisoners were held alone in individual cells at a prison the American called "The Plantation," Navy pilot John McCain was in a neighboring cell.

"The North Vietnamese tried to isolate us, but John and I managed to scratch out messages to each other," Smith said.

After his release, Smith was reunited with his wife Jean, who he married not long before going overseas for combat. They have two sons.

In a statement not long after his release, Smith said, "My long detention in North Vietnam was a complete loss. My greatest gain was a new appreciation for the things in life we usually take for granted. I learned a great deal about human nature and myself especially, under trying circumstances. I also became aware of my spiritual needs as a prisoner."

When he got back into civilian life, Smith continued to fly as a pilot for Eastern Air Lines. Later he got involved in the corporate world and headed the chemical products division of B.F. Goodrich Co. He also served as an executive with Mid America Energy and Air Products & Chemicals Inc.

At one time, his company supplied fuel for the NASA space shuttle.

Since his retirement, Smith has been active in community affairs in south Florida. He even got an opportunity to introduce McCain at a speaking engagement in Naples.

"I'm really thrilled to be part of the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration and feel honored to be asked to speak," Smith said. "I'm really looking forward to being back in Kentucky."

Published: June 17, 2006

Welcome home party honors vets of all wars
By Greg Kocher

Veterans of all wars and their families are invited to Richmond later this week as part of the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration.

The event, billed as one of the largest gatherings of veterans in the state's history, runs Thursday through Sunday at Madison County's Battlefield Park. It will feature flyovers of military aircraft, displays of military equipment and memorabilia, recognition of Medal of Honor recipients, and performances by country music entertainers such as Aaron Tippin, Janie Fricke and Confederate Railroad.

The event is free, but parking will be $10 per carload.

The celebration is a way for veterans to thank one another for their service, said Air Force veteran Ray DeSloover of Richmond, who did two tours in Vietnam.

"It's just to appreciate ourselves for a job well done," DeSloover said. "In all the wars, these guys go out there and they do what they're told, and they get the job done. And you come back and you're discharged and that's it. I guess we're thanking ourselves."

DeSloover got the idea for the homecoming event when he attended an Air Force reunion in Branson, Mo., last summer. There he learned that the country music mecca does an annual "welcome home" for veterans.

"And I thought that was kind of neat. So I went back and talked to my local VFW about it, and we sat there and shot the baloney about it," DeSloover said. "Of course, there's World War II and Korean War guys in there. We said, 'Why not have a welcome home for all veterans of all wars?'"

Nine months later, DeSloover and a committee of other veterans have raised $118,000 in private donations. An additional $120,000 in in-kind donations from Insight Communications, Lexington country music station 92.9 FM "The Bear" and Madison County Fiscal Court have been used to promote the event and to make improvements to the park.

"We've got 30 or 40 guys who have worked on it at different times," DeSloover said of the committee. "We've got generals, retired sergeants, Marines, Air Force, we've got everybody. ... We've had people who have worked their tails off."

To get to Battlefield Park, take Exit 87 off Interstate 75. Turn left and take Eastern Bypass to U.S. 25/Ky. 421. Turn south and then bear left at the fork onto U.S. 421. Turn right at the Herndon estate.

Here is a short list of selected events:

Thursday: The event starts at noon with music by local performers. A flag ceremony starts at 5 p.m. Gov. Ernie Fletcher is scheduled to appear.

Franklin D. Walker of Richmond, who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, has also been invited for recognition.

Former Miss America Heather French Henry, who has been an advocate for disabled veterans, will sing and speak.

Friday: At 5:30 p.m., there will be a formal recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.

There will be a flyover of Navy T-45 trainers. Confederate Railroad will take the stage at 9 p.m.

Saturday: Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne will jump with a flag at 5 p.m.

At 5:50 p.m., former Vietnam prisoner of war Wayne O. Smith will begin reading the names of 1,050 Kentuckians who lost their lives in Vietnam.

A B-52 bomber from Barksdale, La., will fly over at 6:45 p.m.

At 7 p.m., Sgt. Brad Hadden of the 101st Airborne Division will read the names of Kentuckians who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. That will be followed by taps and a 21-gun salute.

Grand Ole Opry star Janie Fricke will sing at 3:30 p.m. and Aaron Tippin at 9 p.m.

Sunday: The park and displays will be open from noon to 5:15 p.m.

For a full schedule and other information, go to

        Traveling replica Vietnam War Memorial arrives
By Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

They call it "The Moving Wall." And there's more than one reason for that.

The replica of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial that travels around the country arrived in Madison County on Tuesday morning.

Volunteers, mostly military veterans, were to begin setting it up this morning at Battlefield Park, where it will stand Thursday through Sunday during the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration.

The wall is "moving" in another sense, however. Even though it is only a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial "wall" that stands in the heart of the nation's capital, no one can come near it without being moved emotionally.

"That's also why it's called "The Wall That Heals," said Lisa Gough, director or communications for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

In addition to the wall replica, the traveling exhibit features a museum and information center. The museum chronicles the Vietnam War era and explores "the unique healing power" of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, which is the capital's most visited monument.

The traveling information center helps visitors learn more about friends and loved ones lost in the war, Gough said. "Volunteers will help them find names on The Wall."

The traveling wall is making its 10th anniversary tour. Madison County is the 10th of 20 locations where The Wall will be displayed this year. It was in Sparta, Tenn., July 13-16. After leaving Kentucky on Monday, it will head to Slater, Mo.

Visit to learn more about The Wall and its scheduled exhibits.

The tractor-trailer which brought the wall to Madison County was accompanied by about 75 motorcyclists, mostly military veterans.

"We picked up some cyclists who just happened to be traveling south on the interstate today and wanted to join us," said cyclist Phil Hedges of Richmond, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7098.

The Wall will be set up on the north side of Battlefield Park, some distance away from the entertainment stage as well as the food and drink vendors, said Emerson McAfee, a member of the celebration organizing committee. "While this event is a celebration," McAfee said, "a visit to The Wall is a solemn occasion and we want to show respect for the men and women whose names are listed for having sacrificed their lives for our country."

Assignments to drive the tractor-trailer carrying the wall are made year-to-year, said Barbara Smith of California, who shares driving duties this year with Cary Dees of Florida.

This is Smith's second year of driving the wall. In 1969, Smith's fiancé, Bob, was killed in Vietnam.

"For 30 years, I wondered how he died," she said. "Then in 1999, I visited the traveling wall in Mansfield, Pa., and asked the site managers, John and Lisa Anderson, about him."

Smith's experience was one of many "serendipitous" encounters involving the wall. "It turned out that John Anderson was a member of Bob's unit. He gave me the names of other men in the unit, including the pilot who was flying with Bob the day he died."

With her questions answered, Smith has maintained a friendship with the Andersons and members of Bob's unit, known as the Blue Ghosts.

Smith was trained as a home economist and holds a master's degree from Central Washington State University. After a 30-year career in home economics, she went to truck-driving school so she could help drive "The Wall That Heals" around the country. After learning to drive the big rigs, she drove for commercial shipping companies for five years before an opportunity to drive The Wall opened in 2005.

Smith met Dees in 2002 when they were both driving commercially. As their friendship developed, Smith confided her interest in becoming a driver and site manager for The Wall. Dees asked her to keep him in mind if she got the job and needed help. He joined her in the final months of the 2005 tour, and the two teamed up again for the 2006 tour.

The Disabled Veterans of America are a major sponsor of the travel replica of The Wall. The organization doubled its contribution this past year to help pay for creation of a new replica which began touring this year.

The public's first opportunity to visit The Wall will be noon Thursday when the gates of Battlefield Park open for the celebration. The park will close at 11 p.m. It also will be open from noon to 11 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Members of the Richmond Kiwanis Club have volunteered to keep vigil at the wall while the park is closed.

No admission will be charged for the celebration, but a $10 donation to park each vehicle will be requested on Friday and Saturday.

Published: August 02, 2006

Symbol of sacrifice

Army Cpl. Scott Wolfe of Richmond helps secure the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall yesterday morning at Battlefield Park in preparation for the Veterans Welcome Home Celebration beginning today and running through Sunday at the park.
Nancy Taggart / Register Photographer

Volunteers assemble Vietnam Memorial Wall at Battlefield Park
By Bob Flynn
Register News Writer

More than 50 volunteers gathered on a grassy knoll at Richmond's Battlefield Park in the early morning heat Wednesday to help assemble the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall for the Veterans Welcome Home Celebration.

Most, such as William Ramsey and Ward Herring, are veterans of previous wars. Some, such as Sgt. Christopher Underwood and Cpl. Scott Wolfe are still active-duty Army, while others were there to support family members who are veterans.

They came for various reasons, but they all shared a respect for what the wall represents: the sacrifice made by the more than 50,000 soldiers whose names are engraved on the wall.

The exhibit is in Madison County for the first time and Ramsey, a 20-year Army veteran and commander of the Disabled American Veterans post Berea, said it gives people who have never seen the original memorial in Washington a chance to experience it at home.

"Everyone can't get to Washington to see the big one, so this is their opportunity to come out and see it and support the veterans in our community," Ramsey said. "This represents the sacrifices made by a lot of people for the freedoms we have," he said.

For many people, visiting the memorial in Washington is a healing journey. Herring, who works with Ramsey in Berea, thinks the movable wall will have the same effect on people who have not been able to see the original memorial.

"I think this does justice to our Vietnam veterans and it brings kind of a closure to those veterans who weren't treated right when they came back from Vietnam, and now I think it can bring joy to those parents who lost loved ones in Vietnam," Herring said.

"I actually cried when I saw the original for the first time. I went back and brought flowers and placed them at the wall, and I felt the same emotions when I saw this one," Herring said.

"I'm a disabled veteran and I take pride in what I do, representing veterans and I would love to see as many veterans and non-veterans and their families as can, come out here and support our veterans and support those that are serving over in Iraq as well," Herring said.

Underwood and Wolfe are recruiters in the Army's Richmond office and said they came out to assist in assembling the wall out of respect for the soldiers who had gone before them.

"The people who were in the military before me really paved the path for people like myself, and they really made a difference in the way it is nowadays," Underwood said.

"I think this celebration is long overdue. In my time, I've rarely seen big events like this for the veterans," Underwood said.

Wolfe said he thinks seeing the wall might help people connect more with the soldiers presently serving in the military as well as those who served previously.

"I think this helps people to actually know what sacrifices were made and what job we have done and it helps them to identify a little more," Wolfe said. "One gentleman actually had a tear in his eye when he first saw the wall this morning. It means a lot to people who served in Vietnam and people who come out will feel it as well."

Marvin Bower, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7098 in Richmond, said the number of veterans who showed up to help set up the wall proved just how much it meant to veterans.

"This is a symbol of all the sacrifices that were made so we could enjoy the freedom we take for granted. It means a lot to all the veterans, not just those who served in Vietnam," Bower said.

"This celebration is the greatest thing to happen to Madison County since the Civil War," Bower said.

Published: August 03, 2006

Max Mollette of Huntingburg, Ind., reflects at the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Friday night at Battlefield Park where his father, James Mollette's name is inscribed. Mollette made the trip to Richmond with members of his family, including his mother, from Indiana and Ohio to see the Wall. Family members left American flags, pictures and a poem in remembrance.

Nancy Taggart / Register Photographer

Governor, former Miss America pay tribute to veterans
By Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher and former Miss America Heather French Henry paid tribute Thursday evening to all military veterans at the opening ceremonies of the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration.

"It was 28 years before my father, a Vietnam veteran, really came home," Henry said. "That's how long it took for the demons he had brought back from Vietnam to leave him."

Pointing toward the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the north side of Battlefield Park, Henry said, "My father had a lot of friends whose names are on that wall."

She told how four of her father's buddies chose to accompany him on a probe of their base camp's perimeter because "They thought it would be too dangerous for him."

Henry's father was wounded, but his four buddies were killed.

Fletcher recalled a visit he made with his father, a World War II veteran, to the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.

The elder Fletcher was a tank driver. He told about the tank commanders who had to expose their upper bodies above the tanks' hatches to observe the battlefields. Many of them were killed.

"My father carried those scars with him all his life," Fletcher said. "I know that many of you veterans here this evening carry similar scars," he said. "But, I can tell you that you do not carry those scars in vain. America is a free and prosperous nation today because of your service."

At 7 p.m., shortly after the program began, a B-52 bomber flew over the park.

The governor presented Kentucky colonel commissions to four recipients of the Medal of Honor and one of the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII, Frank D. Walker of Richmond, who were present at the ceremony.

The Medal of Honor recipients were Ernest E. "Ernie" West of Wurtland, Ronald E. Rosser of Crooksville, Ohio, Rodolfo P. Hernandez of Colton, Calif., and John F. Baker Jr. of Moline, Ill.

Kentucky honors will be presented later in the weekend to Medal of Honor recipients James E. Livingston of McRae, Ga., and Donald E. Ballard of Kansas City, Mo.

Richmond native Wayne O. Smith, who lives in Naples, Fla., also will be honored.

Published: August 04, 2006

More than 20 young Kentuckians take an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic" during a swearing in ceremony for the U.S. Air Force on Friday evening during the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration at Battlefield Park.

Nancy Taggart / Register Photographer

Next 'greatest generation' honored at veterans event
By Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

While the four-day celebration at Battlefield Park this weekend is billed as a "Welcome Home" for Kentucky veterans, some 21 young Kentuckians took their first step toward becoming veterans Friday evening.

As a group, the 21 took the U.S. military enlistment oath, swearing to defend the U.S. Constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

They will soon become members of the U.S. Air Force.

"These are the next 'greatest generation.'" said Gen. John Coburn of Mt. Sterling, former commander of the Blue Grass Army Depot at Avon.

"Unlike my generation, they weren't faced with being drafted. They're all volunteers, and they'll perform magnificently.

"The veterans of past wars who we've have come to honor at this celebration did not fail us, and these young people who took the oath today will not fail us either. All our hopes and dreams are entrusted to you," he told the enlistees.

Speaking to the veterans present, Coburn said, "Most people wonder if their lives have made a difference in the world. You don't have to wonder about that. You've made a difference in all our lives."

In the veterans' honor, a 21-gun salute was fired by seven riflemen of the Richmond-based 617th Military Police Company. Two U.S. Navy fighter jets from a base in Mississippi performed two low-level flyovers, one at slow speed and another at top speed. One of the jets was piloted by Richmond native Lt. Matt Moberly, whose parents, Jimmy and Billie Moberly, were watching from the ground. Moberly is a graduate of Madison Central High School and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Five of the six Medal of Honor recipients who had come to Madison County were presented keys to the city and presented proclamations in their honor by Madison Judge-Executive Kent Clark and Berea Mayor Steve Connelly.

Medal of Honor recipient John Baker of South Carolina said the company to which he belonged in Vietnam "shipped yesterday for Iraq." In about five months, he will be going to pin the Combat Infantry Badge on each of them.

Recipient Ron Rosser, a Korean War veteran, said his former regiment is preparing for duty in Iraq, but said he hoped he did not have to go join them.

After greeting the crowd, the Medal of Honor recipients proceeded to a tent where they autographed copies of the book "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty."

One member of the Marine Corps League suggested that collectors buy a copy for themselves and another to donate to a local school library.

Another book on sale and available for autographing was "Doc: Heroic Stories of Medics Corpsmen and Surgeons in Combat."

Author Chuck Wright said he was inspired to write the book by the story of Medal of Honor recipient Don Ballard, a medic in Vietnam. At least 2,000 wounded military personnel in Vietnam survived because of the medical corps, he said.

"We wear these medals in honor of all veterans who served courageously," Ballard said. "We're just the ones whose actions were witnessed and written up."

Events such as the Kentucky Veterans' Welcome Home Celebration are important, Ballard said, because non-veterans need to be reminded that "Freedom isn't free."

Attendance for the official ceremony Friday night totaled about 500. Temperatures had cooled from the night before when only about 150 braved the heat and humidity to attend. A pleasant breeze also was blowing Friday evening.

The bluegrass group Confederate Railroad was to headline the entertainment Friday night.

The highlights of Saturday's schedule include entertainment by country music star Janie Fricke at 3:30 p.m., recognition of the fallen from the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan at 5 p.m. and Richmond native Wayne O. Smith reading of the names of the 1,050 Kentuckians who died in the Vietnam War. Smith was held has a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years.

Richmond entertainer Tim Hellard will perform at 7:30 with country start Aaron Tippin taking the stage at 9 p.m.

Attendees may bring blankets or lawn chairs into the park, but coolers are prohibited. Food and drinks are available from concessionaires.

On Sunday, the Madison Central High School Marching Band will perform at 1 p.m. and the Trojan Horsemen, a precision flight team of six WWII aircraft, will put on a show at 2:15 p.m.

Published: August 04, 2006

 Former Vietnam POW speaks at veterans celebration
By Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial contains the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died in that conflict. At least 1,043 of them were from Kentucky.

In a solemn, 90-minute ceremony, each of those 1,043 names, with their rank and branch of service, was read aloud Saturday afternoon during day three of the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration .

While the celebration is intended to honor all Kentucky veterans, Vietnam veterans are receiving special recognition, in part because of the treatment many Vietnam veterans received when they returned home. A half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that stands in the nation's capital has been brought to Madison County's Battlefield Park for the celebration.

After the Vietnam memorial list was read, the 43 Kentuckians who have died in the current Iraqi War were read aloud by Iraq War veteran Sgt. Brad Haddon.

Wayne O. Smith

Nancy Taggart / Register Photographer

The reading of the names of the fallen in Vietnam was begun by Richmond native Wayne O. Smith, a former Air Force pilot who was shot down in January 1968 after flying 90 combat missions. He was held by the North Vietnamese for five years and two months before being released after the signing of the Paris peace accords.

Prisoners of war do not consider themselves heroes, Smith said. "As my friend John McCain (a fellow POW with Smith) told me, it doesn't take a lot of talent to fly your plane into a missile."

Despite Smith's modesty, only an heroic struggle enabled him to survive his cruel treatment at the hands of the North Vietnamese.

The mutual moral support of the POWs, plus their faith in God, family and county helped them survive, he said.

When Smith was first placed in his POW cell, he heard a fellow prisoner yell through the drain pipe, "Hey new guy, keep your spirits up."

Soon afterward, the North Vietnamese guards entered the other prisoner's cell, and Smith heard their rifle butts smashing his bony flesh. Smith then got the same treatment.

After several failed escaped attempts that resulted in American fatalities and the beating of those recaptured, the POW leaders decided against additional escape attempts, Smith said, "unless we got help from the outside."

"If we were to be released, we agreed that the sick and wounded would go first, and then we should be freed based on length of captivity."

The American prisoners were offered freedom or at least better treatment if they would make propaganda statements condemning the U.S. war effort, Smith said. "In eight years, only 12 American POWs accepted early release," he said.

A POW's commitment to "return with honor" could cost him his life, Smith noted.

Of approximately 1,300 American pilots shot down over North Vietnam, only 471 made it back home, he said.

Unlike many of the veterans who returned from Vietnam, Smith said the former prisoners of war received a hero's welcome. "They had a big bash for us at the White House," he said.

"I have often asked myself," Smith said, did those 58,000 Americans whose names are on that wall over there die in vain?"

Citing the actions of the North Vietnamese after the U.S. withdrew from South Vietnam, Smith said the American effort was just.

The North Vietnamese killed more that 1 million of their own people after the U.S. withdrew. Another million died trying to escape. An additional 2.5 million died in the "killing fields" of Cambodia after the U.S. pulled out, he said.

After the names of the fallen were read, a Kentucky National Guard detachment fired a 21-gun salute followed by the playing of taps by Nancy Pickle, a member of the JROTC unit at Madison Southern High School.

Then a group of six WWII-era planes known as the Trojan Horsemen flew low over the park. A few minutes later, they returned in a "missing man" formation.

Four paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., dropped into the parking bring the U.S. flag, the POW-MIA flag and their unit flag.

During the afternoon, country music star Janie Fricke entertained. Tim Hellard and Aaron Tippin were set to perform Saturday night.

Attendance for the memorial ceremony was estimated at more than 1,500. More vehicles were streaming into the park for the evening entertainment.

Today, the Madison Central High School Band will perform at 1 p.m. and the Trojan Horsemen will put on an aerobatics show beginning at 2:15 p.m.

Published: August 05, 2006


Members of the Trojan Horsemen, a precision flight team which uses T-28 "Warbirds" from World War II, performed Saturday and Sunday at the Kentucky Veterans Welcome Home Celebration at Battlefield Park. The did a flyover and missing man formation Saturday and put on an aerobatics show Sunday afternoon.

Bob Flynn / The Register

   Veterans event success despite deficit
By Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

"We had a great event to honor Kentucky's veterans," said Marvin Bauer, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars 7098, which sponsored the Kentucky Veterans' Welcome Home Celebration this past Thursday through Sunday at Battlefield Park.

"Everything ran smoothly," he said. "All of our entertainers and special guests, including six Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoner of war Wayne O. Smith, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher and former Miss American Heather French Henry were able to attend."

There were no traffic tie-ups or disturbances caused by rowdy fans of any of the entertainers, as some law enforcement officials had feared.

Attendance, however, was nowhere near what the sponsors had hoped. "We had about 7,500 attend over the event's four days," Bauer said. As many as 15,000 to 20,000 had been predicted.

Temperatures in the lower to mid-90s each day, plus the fear of traffic jams on two-lane US 421, probably contributed to the lower-than-expected attendance, Bauer said.

The event charged no admission, but each vehicle on Friday and Saturday was asked for a $10 donation.

"We were hoping to collect as much $20,000 in parking donations, Bauer said. But even after "passing the hat" through the audience during the Aaron Tippin concert Saturday night, donations totaled only about $9,600, said Ray DeSloover, one of the organizers.

The organizers were hit with about "$8,400 in unexpected expenses," DeSloover said. "That leaves us with a deficit of about $10,000."

DeSloover, Bauer, Emerson McAfee and other volunteers were back at the park early Monday morning taking down the replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the stage and other facilities.

"Even with the deficit and all the work we volunteers had to do ourselves, I still think it was a worthwhile event for our community, especially our veterans," Bauer said.

"I'm confident we can retire the debt," DeSloover said. "I think we can go back to some of our original sponsors for some help, and we'll hold some fund-raisers."

The organizing committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in DeSloover's office, 107 N. Kilarney Lane. Donations to help retire the event's deficit may be sent to VFW Post 7098, c/o Marvin Bauer, Commander; 102 Daisey Drive, Richmond, KY 40475.

Published: August 08, 2006

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