Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer (at microphone) unveils the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ bronze statue by Seward Johnson Friday with the help of four local dancers. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer (at microphone) unveils the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ bronze statue by Seward Johnson Friday with the help of four local dancers. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Kosciusko County veterans of World War II were honored at a special ceremony during First Friday.
D-Day was the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. The invasion helped the Allies turn the tide against the Germans and the Axis powers.
Friday’s ceremony started with the unveiling of the “Unconditional Surrender” bronze statue by Seward Johnson. It is one of 16 statues in downtown Warsaw and Central Park.
“Unconditional Surrender” is the physical representation of “V-J in Times Square,” a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, that portrays an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress on Victory over Japan Day in Times Square, New York City, on Aug. 14, 1945.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer welcomed the crowd to the Walk-N-Wander exhibit. He said the statues will remain in town until Sept. 28.
“I think these statues will make lots of friends,” he said.
Recognizing the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Thallemer said, “We remember those who sacrificed to push back the wall of tyranny.”
Dancers with Deb Collier’s School of Dance then removed the sheet from the statue to unveil it. The dancers included Jasmin Baker, Laura Pitts, Ashley Cassel and Ellen Davenport.
Thallemer then gave a history of the famous photograph represented by the statue. While the war memorial of names on the courthouse lawn remembers the fallen, Thallemer remarked that the statue honors those who came back and their sacrifices.
Ken Locke, Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association, told the crowd of WWII veterans that it was an honor to stand before them and say thank you. He said they are America’s Greatest Generation, even though they don’t like to be called that.
After the national anthem, New Life Christian Church Pastor John Lowe II stated that words are not adequate to say thank you to the veterans. He gave a prayer thanking the Lord for those who were there and those who made the greatest sacrifice.
Locke thanked the GWMA, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and all of the other people behind the scenes that made the ceremony possible. Lake Area Community Band and Manchester Civic Band played the medley of the Armed Forces songs.
Joe Wilkey, a U.S. Marine veteran and director of World Compassion Network, spoke about how there was no greater honor on earth and in this country than to pay honor to the WWII veterans. He honored them for their sacrifices and achievements.
“You didn’t plan to do it. You just answered the call,” Wilkey said, adding that there wasn’t enough sacrifice today of one person for another.
“I learned to love the country by veterans who sacrificed,” he said. “We can’t know what our lives would be like if not for you.”
Even after the war, Wilkey said the men and women of that generation didn’t quit. They rolled up their sleeves and made America one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
“Most of you didn’t have the skills for war until you went to war. You took up the job that was given to you,” he said.
Locke then read the names of the county’s WWII veterans, most of them who were present at the ceremony. As he read the names, Iraq War veteran Army Sgt. 1st Class Jordan Mayfield then presented each man and woman with a coin and patch. The patch reads, “United States of America – A Grateful Nation Remembers – World War II – 1941-1945 – 70th 2011-2015.” The coin and patch were provided by McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel.
Locke estimated he had about 85 names on the list.
The combined honor guards of the American Legion and VFW then provided a 21-gun salute, followed by Martin Becker playing Taps.
John Sadler concluded the ceremony by telling the veterans it’s been an honor to participate “in this remembrance of our veterans.”
Two of the veterans honored were Don and Sally Nichols. While Don served in the Army, Sally served in the Navy.
Before the ceremony started, Don said he originally joined the Air Force as a cadet, but they had too many cadets so they cut back. He was then sent to the 10th Armored Division in the Army in 1944.
“I spent the next 18 months with that unit. I helped destroy a couple of German tanks. I lost about two tanks. I had no control over it,” Don recalled.
He said Friday’s ceremony “showed the appreciation of the community.”