GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County gathered along Second Avenue in Gallipolis and in the Gallipolis City Park to remember and celebrate the service of its military veterans Monday as part of its annual ceremony and parade organized by the Gallia Veterans Service Commission.
Gallia Veterans Service Office Executive Director John Thomas served as the master of ceremonies and invited visitors to join him in the American Pledge of Allegiance. The Gallia Academy High School Madrigals led the National Anthem and Pastor John Jackson led the ceremony’s invocation. Thomas then led the introduction of area veteran group commanders and dignitaries.
Thomas introduced Ohio Department of Veterans Services Sean McCarthy as the day’s guest speaker.
According to press release information, earlier in his career, McCarthy served as a judge in Franklin County Municipal Court and on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas; following his service in common pleas court, he was transferred to the list of retired judges and briefly served as a visiting judge. He began public life as an assistant prosecutor in Franklin County, prosecuting violent crimes and later serving as deputy director of the Drug Prosecution Unit.
Following 9/11, McCarthy volunteered for service in the Ohio Army National Guard. His service included multiple assignments in Ohio, mobilization to Mississippi and Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, and deployment to Afghanistan with an infantry brigade. He left the Army as a major, and his personal awards include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal.
“I get a great welcome for every time I come down to this part of the state, so thank you,” said McCarthy. “America begins with an idea and that idea almost immediately provoked war. The idea was simple. Americans believed that Americans could choose who governed them. They believed that everybody had rights and everybody should be treated with dignity and everybody should have a voice in who led them. That idea was sufficiently controversial that a king sent soldiers and mercenaries across the Atlantic to try and beat us back into shape. So, that idea began with a generation of founders who were willing to take oaths and pick up arms to protect that idea. That is the first generation of American veterans.”
“In all the generations since then, every generation has found people among them who were willing to take oaths, and pick up arms and protect what Abraham Lincoln would call the ‘American Experiment,’” continued McCarthy. “The experiment is ongoing. We are grateful to live in a country of liberty and law. But that didn’t come easily and it was not inevitable. The rest of the world poses as a very stark contrast to the life we lead. A number of years ago, I got to spend some time in Afghanistan. I got to tell you there is no significant difference between the average American and the average Afghan, save one thing. The average American believes in freedom and the individual rights of human beings and believes that we can come together to form our own law. The average Afghan has never been exposed to that idea in any meaningful way.”
“Because we have inherited that legacy of freedom of belief, we have a country we can be proud of,” said McCarthy. “…Americans have continued to serve. We are blessed to have more than 20 million Americans alive today have protected their nation, whether in peace time… And peace time service counts. There was a time when the Soviet Union posed the greatest threat to liberty that humankind had ever seen. Those men and women who served in uniform for decades (provided) a line that said ‘You cannot cross here. We will continue our freedom.” They served. Whether a person served in peacetime or war or whether their service was in the front line or making it possible, veterans have made our nation possible. And more importantly when they return to Ohio, they are our neighbors and good friends and backbones of our families and coworkers we can depend on.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.