GALLIPOLIS — “We call this a holiday, but for many veterans, it’s another day of memories that drive them to live their lives each day as best as they possibly can. For many of our military, it is a day in harm’s way. For their families, it is another day to feel the absence of a loved one and the concern for their safety. For our wounded warriors, it is another day of slow and arduous recovery, and, for others, it is another day when the grief of loss remains fresh.”
These were the words of Lt. Col. Paul Fellinger at Monday morning’s Veterans Day ceremony in the Gallipolis City Park, an event organized each year by the Gallia County Veterans Service Commission.
Fellinger, a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam as an intelligence officer for a field artillery battalion, has worked at various positions throughout his career in the Army, including as a NATO Corps special weapons officer in Rendsburg, Germany, and as a Senior U.S. Officer in NATO Headquarters.
Currently, Fellinger works each year as part of the Association of the U.S. Army and the Military Officers Association of America to tirelessly raise funds to provide support to soldiers and their families.
A Gallipolis native and close friend to Fellinger, Steve Lee, Senior Vice President of UBS Financial in Cincinnati, who is also the driving force behind the annual USO Riverfest Gala in Cincinnati, provided Fellinger’s introduction of Monday and also made a few remarks of his own.
“This is the best town I could ever think about growing up in, and I just feel so fortunate to have been here those first 18 years of my life,” Lee of his early years in Gallipolis. “When I see the guys in Afghanistan, and you go out where they are and we’re twelve kilometers from Pakistan, I see the sacrifice that those soldiers, those airmen, those Marines, those sailors, those Green Berets, those Navy Seals, I see the sacrifice that they make. When I come back home and I get to see the families, I can see the sacrifices that the families make. So, to all of you, thank you and God bless you for what you’ve done for all the rest of us.”
In his remarks, Fellinger, as the guest speaker of the Veterans Day program, stated he received a very warm welcome by all he encountered in Gallipolis on Monday, and was honored that he had been asked to speak during the ceremony.
The speaker further discussed the origins of Veterans Day as an occasion that originally marked the signing of the Armistice between the Allied Forces and Germany on the 11 hour of the 11 day of the 11 month in 1918, an agreement that ended fighting in World War I — the war to end all wars.
“We don’t mark this day every year as a celebration of victory, as proud as we are of that victory; rather, we mark this day as a celebration of those who have made this victory possible,” Fellinger said. “Today, we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this nation — the generations of Americans who, above all else, believe in and fought for a set of ideals.”
The guest speaker also spoke of the character of veterans, who, even in this time of continuing conflict in the Middle East, continue to sign up and volunteer to serve and uphold the ideals of their country.
“You may have heard this definition of a veteran — and this includes every veteran, whether that veteran is on active duty or retired, a member of a national guard or a reserve unit — a veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to an including his or her life,” Fellinger said. “Veterans choose to serve the cause that is greater than themselves, many even after they knew they’d be sent into harm’s way, and, in this time of persistent conflict that has been taking place for the better part of a decade, they have volunteered to serve, and they have endured tour after tour in a distant and difficult place. They have protected us from danger and they gave others the opportunity for a better life just like the service members before them.”
During his remarks, Fellinger also relayed a famous quote by George Washington concerning veterans which calls for the nation to appreciate its veterans as this will directly affect the willingness of young people to serve in any war.
“We as a nation must continue to take care of our veterans, not just the core from the conflict of the Middle East. As the veterans of World War II and Korea diminish in number every day we must continue to honor them and learn from them, and we must ensure that veterans from all eras are listened to and learned from and honored for their sacrifice and taken care of by a grateful nation,” Fellinger stated.
Fellinger further called for those gathered to take pride in the passing of Veterans Day as a moment to celebrate the nation and the people who have made countless sacrifices so that it may continue as a country founded on the values of freedom.
“Let us remember those who are deployed in the serve of their country. Let us remember those whose check has been cashed, who have payed the ultimate sacrifice and cannot be with us today,” Fellinger told the crowd. “So, while it is important and proper that we mark this day with a solemn remembrance, it is far more important we spend our days rejoicing in that service, and remembering ourselves that, because of our veterans, our country still stands, our founding principals still shine, and nations around the world that once knew nothing but fear now know the blessings of freedom.”