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Annual Navy Night Honors veterans of sea-based branches

Pride and patriotism were on display Thursday evening as Lawrence Countians paid tribute to America's sea-going branches of military service.

The annual Navy Night service at Ironton's Second Street boat landing drew a crowd of about 300 people.

In his invocation, Dr. Mark Lail, pastor of First Church of the Nazarene in Ironton, thanked God for "a tremendous country," and said he was "grateful for opportunities such as these to gather in the name of freedom."

In his keynote address, Navy veteran James Bradshaw pointed out that everyone knows someone who served

in the military, and some of our nation's leaders were Navy veterans.

He mentioned that both Democratic President John F. Kennedy and Republican President George Herbert Bush were both World War II veterans.

"We are Americans, regardless of political party," he said.

Bradshaw paid particular tribute to the Merchant Marines and the U.S. Coast Guard, two branches of service that he said are often overlooked when people honor those in uniform.

"Merchant Marines carried 95 percent of the combat supplies in Vietnam, but its casualties are not listed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC," Bradshaw said.

"The Coast Guard is often similarly forgotten, and sometimes thought of as sea-going bureaucrats. But it has been chief in our line of defense in the war on drugs."

Bradshaw said that both branches of service will face greater duty in the future in the war on anti-terrorism.

Bradshaw, a native of Ironton, is a graduate of Ohio University, Athens. After college, he served as a US Naval Reserve officer from 1962-1965.

He held various posts including Boat Commander, First Lieutenant, Navigator and Combat Information Center Officer aboard two attacks troop transports, the USS Talladega and the USS Sandoval.

During his tour aboard the Talladega in 1963, his ship landed Marines in Qui Nhon, Vietnam.

After leaving the Navy, Bradshaw worked as a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. He retired in 2001.

Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary presented Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial day Parade Grand Marshal Sue Lunsford with a proclamation making Thursday officially Navy Night in the city.

Also taking part in the Navy Night observance were the Lawrence County Ecumenical Choir; bagpiper Greg McFarland, who played "Amazing Grace;"

Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown, who served as Master of Ceremonies; the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8850,who provided the gunnery salute and the Iron Hills Wilderness Road Girl Scouts, who cast rose petals on the water near the end of the evening.

The service ended as the US Coast Guard dropped the ceremonial wreath into the Ohio River as bugler Martin L. Smith played taps. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune