By Ken Williamson
Before sunrise on this Memorial Day, May 28th, 2018, the members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 649 were busy setting up for their 25th Memorial Day Ceremony at Union Township Veterans Memorial Park.
A gentle breeze blew across the field of white crosses that would, by days end, hold almost 500 American flags to honor those local veterans who were killed in action in Vietnam and other recent wars.
The crosses were set out two days in advance with the help of local Scout Troop 452.
Under the direction of Ray Autenrieb, VVA 649 member and Chairman of the Memorial Day Committee, flags were lowered to half-staff, unit flags were set up around the Huey Helicopter Memorial, and the sound system was installed.
Local television stations had already arrived to capture the events of the day.
At sunrise, Everything Bagels delivered fresh bagels and cream cheese.
A golf cart donated by Clermont County Equipment stood by to transport guests from the parking lot to the memorial. The reading of the names traditionally takes place on the hour, every hour until the beginning of the 2:00 PM ceremony. The first reader to arrive for the 6 A.M. reading was Bob McGee, Union Township Trustee.
While he read the list of names, two VVA649 members placed a flag on top of each cross and rendered a military salute in honor of each fallen comrade. At the top of every hour, the process began again with a different reader until all the names had been read.
The 50th Commemoration of The Vietnam War Family Membership Sacrifice Pin was presented to Robert Gumbert, Sr. by Ray Autenrieb, VVA 649 member and Master of Ceremonies for the Memorial Day event.
Mr. Gumbert received the pin in honor of his son PFC Robert William Gumbert, Jr. who was MIA (killed in action – body not recovered) in Vietnam on June 27, 1970.
The “Missing in Action” status was later changed in 2015.
The 2:00 P.M. ceremony featured posting of the colors by The National Award-Winning Union Township Color Guard, singing of the National Anthem by Elaine Riley and an inspiring Keynote address by David Painter, Clermont County Commissioner.