GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County remembered its lost and missing heroes Friday morning in remembrance of National POW and MIA Recognition Day by gathering in Gallipolis City Park to listen to Ron Wroblewski speak on unity in America.
The event was presented by Gallia Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 709 and Post 4464 of the Gallia Veterans of Foreign Wars. The ceremony was introduced by Jim Cozza. The invocation was given by VVA Chaplain John Jackson. Presentation of the Colors was given by VFW Post 4464 Honor Guard. Grace Sydnor of Gallia Academy High School led the National Anthem and patriotic music for the day.
Cozza next described the significance of the POW MIA Empty Chair Ceremony. The table symbolizes the frailty of an isolated prisoner. The tablecloth is white and symbolic of the purity of the individual’s intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. A single rose in a vase signifies the blood shed in sacrifice for country. The ribbon on vase represents the ribbons worn on lapels of the thousands who demand a proper accounting of comrades not among the public. The slice of lemon on a plate reminds others of the bitter fate of the missing. The salt on the plate reminds others of the tears shed as families wait for their loved ones return. The inverted glass is to remind others of those who cannot toast with their family and friends at the current time. The candles remind others of the light of hope that a soldier will return home. The American Flag reminds others that many may never return and reminds others of the pain and sacrifice to ensure freedom. Flags of the various military branches stand for those who served in their respective branches. The empty chair serves as the largest reminder of those who are still missing.
Fred Mooney, of Northup, was killed in action February 27, 1971 as an Army Sergeant 1st Class in the country of Laos. Veterans and residents of Gallia remembered him Friday.
Wroblewski was born in Charleston, W.Va, graduated from Gallia Academy High School and is a Vietnam combat veteran having served as a field radio operator with the United States Marine Corps from mid 1963 to late 1966 (Vietnam 1965-1966). He served as the day’s keynote speaker.
He says his service connected disability hasn’t diminished his love for America or his desire to continue to give back to his country. He is currently serving as the President of Tri-State Chapter 949, Vietnam Veterans of America and the West Virginia Marine Corps Coordinating Council.
VVA members say his accomplishments are many. He has been named a Hometown Hero. Some may say his most significant and most recent successful project was getting a U.S. Naval ship named in honor of Hershel “Woody” Williams, West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor recipient. VVA members say it took 18 years of dedication to get the Navy to name the ship.
Wroblewski noted that U.S. President Donald Trump was in the process of getting American soldier remains returned from the Korean War. He noted it may take many years to get them identified though.
“Honored guests, friends and brother warriors, it’s an honor and a privilege to speak to you today,” said Wroblewski. “National POW and MIA Recognition Day is observed all across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Many Americans across this great country pause and remember the sacrifices and service of those who are prisoners of war, POW, as well as those who remain missing in action, MIA, and their families. All military installations fly a POW and MIA flag which symbolizes the nation’s remembrance…We honor their sacrifice.”
“We are Americans and we should be very proud of that,” said Wroblewski. “There was a report in Pakistan published in a newspaper of an offer of a reward for anyone who will kill an American, any American. So let’s just see what an American is so they know when they find one. An American is English, or French or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Russian or Greek. An American may be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Iranian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. An American may also be Cherokee, Blackfoot, Navajo, Apache or one of the many other tribes known as Native Americans. An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in the US than there are in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship the way they choose. An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he must answer to God, not to the government or some armed thugs claiming to represent the government or God.”
Wroblewski said Americans were found in a prosperous land rooted in free enterprise and the Constitution that recognized the “God-given right” of the pursuit of happiness. Americans are generous and had assisted many countries struggling throughout history, he said.
“You can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did…and every other bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world,” said Wroblewski. “But doing so, you’d just be killing yourself. Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds that spirit, everywhere, is an American. Be proud America. You have just cause to be proud.”
Robert Dunlap offered the closing prayer and VFW 4464’s Honor Guard held a closing rifle salute.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.