GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County residents gathered in Gallipolis City Park Saturday to honor those who sacrificed and are currently serving their country as military service members during Gallia Veterans Day ceremonies.
Executive Director of the Gallia Veterans Service Office, John Thomas, served as master of ceremonies and led the Pledge of Allegiance. The River Valley High School Show Choir led the National Anthem and Pastor John Jackson led the invocation. The show choir then again led the public in a rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Thomas recognized area guests and dignitaries before inviting U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Marietta, OH 6th District) to serve as the event’s guest speaker.
Johnson was born and raised on family farms. Johnson entered the U.S. Air Force in 1973, and retired as a lieutenant colonel after a distinguished military career of more than 26 years. In that time, he was awarded the honors of the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
As a director of the Air Force’s Chief Information Officer staff with the US Special Operations Command, Johnson was known to work with Secretary of Defense representatives as well as senior congressional staff and leaders within the US intelligence community.
Following his retirement from military service, Johnson turned to creating and building high technology businesses and also served in the executive leadership team as chief information officer of a global manufacturing company.
In 2010, Johnson was elected to his first term to represent the people of Ohio’s Sixth Congressional District, which covers much of eastern and southeastern Ohio. He was subsequently reelected in 2012, 2014 and 2016. He currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Budget Committee. Additionally, he is a member of the House Shale Caucus.
Johnson is also the author of the book entitled “Raising Fathers” in which he addresses the importance of fatherhood, and begins confronting the destructive social and cultural impacts caused by what he feels to be the staggering number of America’s children that are being raised in fatherless homes.
Johnson and his wife LeeAnn, currently reside in Marietta with a son, Nathan. He is also the parent of three grown children and is a grandfather of six.
“I promise I will not keep you long, but I hope what I will share with you in just a few brief moments will leave you feeling encouraged today,” said Johnson. “You know, if you listen to the television, you would think that the train has fallen off the tracks, that the wheels are coming off of America. Well let me tell you they’re not. This is still the greatest place to live. And the reason that it is is because of the millions of brave Americans throughout our nation’s history that have stood up for the cause of freedom, volunteered to put on America’s military uniform and go off and carry the banner of freedom around the world.”
Johnson went on to say that if Americans would look back in history, during the 1860s, the country had just come out of the American Civil War.
“We were never, and have never, been more divided as a nation than we were then,” said Johnson. “And yet in less than a generation, we came together with northerners and southerns putting on the same uniform. We marched off to Europe to fight off tyranny in World War I. We demobilized and did the same thing again in World War II. Then Korea. And then Vietnam and today’s modern War on Terror.”
Johnson would go on to read a speech first given November 13, 2010 by then Lt. Gen. John Kelly (now the White House Chief of Staff) to the Semper Fi Society of Saint Louis. He would describe a 2008 suicide bombing in Iraq that killed two Marines, Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter. The speech given by Kelly, and repeated by Johnson, has been called “Six Seconds to Live” and details how an explosive truck charged towards a military camp gate in Ramadi. The pair of previously mentioned Marines fired at the vehicle, killing the driver, before the truck exploded, killing the two Marines. Despite their deaths, the rest of the camp survived. A surveillance video displays the six seconds described in the speech between the vehicle entering the Marine’s view and their subsequent death.
“They never even stepped aside,” said Johnson. “Folks, they never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, just like they’d been trained to do, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons…ladies and gentlemen, (those) are the kind of people that are standing watch in harm’s way all over the world, protecting you today.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.