By Jordan Puckett
Members of Monroe Township met at the historic Mt. Zion Chapel on Clermontville-Laurel Road Sunday, July 7 to honor the township’s veterans. Three veterans were in attendence: Joe Whitt and Joe Golfman, both veterans of World War II, and Larry Kees, a veteran of the Korean War.
“It’s a joyous occasion to honor and show our love for our veterans,” said pastor Tom Wildey.
After Wildey gave the invocation, vocalist John Hale sang the national anthem. Pike Gibson, 7, and his brother, Arlie Gibson, 5, sang “Grand Ole Flag” for the congregation. Arlie was named after Arlie Fields, a veteran and educator from Monroe Township. The boys were dressed in red, white and blue outfits and waved flags as they sang.
Joe Whitt, a sailor in the US Navy for six years, took the podium to tell the congregation about his time serving during World War II.
“I was there on that particular day, at the hour it happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,” Whitt said. “We had absolutely no idea that this attack was coming.”
He related in vivid detail the events of that day as he saw them, giving such images as “the harbor floating with bodies,” burning oil, soldiers covered in blood and oil, and endless rows of boxes filled with bodies.
“When this day was finished, our world was badly changed,” Whitt said.
Joe Golfman was the next to take the podium.
Golfman relayed his story of the Battle of the Bulge, in which he was wounded by a gunshot wound through his thigh. Golfman was bandaged by a lieutenant, but had to lead the first aid doctor and a few other men through the battle to safety.
Golfman said explosive shells were being fired over their heads into the trees and machine guns bullets were streaking through the snow at their feet. He said they made it to safety during a break in the machine gun fire.
After being treated at several hospitals and spending six weeks in rehabilitation, Golfman returned to war and was in Austria the day the war ended.
Larry Kees did not take the podium, but he stood and told the congregation that he had been stationed in France during the Korean conflict.
Hale returned to sing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.” Joyce Richardson, Monroe Township trustee, presented the three men with patriotic T-shirts and gift certificates from the historical society.
“Almost as long as there has been life, war has been part of it,” Richardson said. “We can’t stand by and watch people being persecuted around the world. You all saw that and you answered the call. You are the ones who make the justice for all of mankind and we thank you for that.”