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Local DAV honors fallen comrades

They stood and saluted as "Taps" played -- five men who served their country, paying homage to brothers in arms who didn’t come back.

The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 55 Wednesday had its annual wreath-laying service on the Lawrence County Courthouse lawn.

A circle of red, white and blue ribbons and American flags were placed in front of the county’s memorial to soldiers who served in Vietnam. Seventeen of the soldiers whose names are on the memorial were killed in action. Another six died while in service.

"We have a beautiful day," DAV commander Stephen Saunders noted. "But they’re not here to enjoy this with us."

Saunders noted in his address that these were "men of sacrifice, of courage," and that they believed in something they were willing to give their lives for.

"Our flag is red, white and blue," Saunders said.

The red stands for valor, not to mention the blood of the millions who were wounded and killed on the battle field.

It has a constant transfusion as young men heed the call and join in service to their country.

Chapter 51 member Frank Pernestti said it was important to remember "all those who put their lives on the line. All those who fought for their country, we should honor them."

Pernestti served in the Army for two years, one of them in Korea during the Korean conflict. His dad fought in World War One, and one of his brothers was killed in World War two. Another brother retired from service.

Like Pernestti, Saunders’ family has a history of service to their country. His great-grandfather, a Lawrence County native, was a prisoner of war in the Civil War, held captive by confederate soldiers in Virginia.

Saunders spent four years in the Air Force, serving in Thailand during the Vietnam conflict. His son, Stephen Robert, also served in the military.

Saunders noted that this is not unusual for Lawrence County. Many, if not most families have that same story to tell.

"In this area, we were taught that to dodge the draft or desert was a crime. We grew up knowing military men as heroes, and this has not left us." Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune