By Kristin Rover
Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 649 spent their Memorial Day weekend honoring service members from Clermont County during their 21st annual Memorial Day 24-Hour Vigil.
The vigil, held in Veterans Memorial Park in Union Township, began with opening ceremonies at 2 p.m. May 26 and ended with closing ceremonies at 2 p.m. May 27.
During the 24 hours of the vigil, members of the chapter and volunteers read the names of the service men and women in Clermont County who passed away as the result of combat, and they placed flags with the individuals’ names on top of crosses that filled the lawn beside the memorial.
“It allows us to pay tribute individually to each person from the area who died in combat,” Ken Williamson, former president of the chapter, said about the event.
The vigil honored men and women who fought and died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Mark Brandon, the new president of the chapter, said he feels it is important to remember those who served because they did not have the opportunity to continue to live their lives.
“I had a friend, as many of my peers did, who died in Vietnam,” Brandon said. “I look around and I have a wife and children. This fellow did not. These people who died in battle impacted their family and friends.”
Brandon said he thinks about the saying “all gave some and some gave all,” during the ceremony.
“That’s why I come out here to be a part of it,” Brandon said.
Jim Haas, another member of the chapter, remained at the park all night reading names with other volunteers.
“It’s an obligation to the chapters and the ones who are gone,” Haas said. “For reasons I don’t know why, I am here and others are here, but others are not.”
Community members also volunteered to help with the vigil. Many were friends and family members of individuals who died while serving the country.
June Wilson, of Batavia, said she lost a family friend and feels it is important to come to the vigil every year.
“It’s for them, not for us,” Wilson said about honoring those who served. “That is the message. Everybody definitely needs to come out here.”
Wilson said she knows Memorial Day weekend is also about spending time with family members and friends, but more importantly it is about remembering those who fought for the country.
“This is what it is all about,” Wilson said. “We wouldn’t get to enjoy the day if it wasn’t for them.”
Catherine Pope, of Anderson Township, lost her son as the result of war.
“They have given their all for us,” Pope said about members of the military. “We should appreciate that. We can at least come out for one day.”
Pope, who placed a flag with her son’s name on a cross during the ceremony, said she thinks the 24-hour vigil is a special way to honor service men and women on Memorial Day.
“I think it has been unbelievable,” Pope said about the vigil. “It is beautiful that they would have something like this for those who serve.”
George Kinnaird, a member of the chapter, organizes the 24-hour vigil each year. This is the 21st year the vigil has been held.
For more information about the vigil, visit http://vva649.org.