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Sailors honored for courage at Navy Night

"The men and women of the U.S. Navy are still doing it and still doing it proud."

Those were the words of a career naval aviator to the more than 300 people who gathered Thursday for the community's annual Navy Night service.

Coal Grove native Lt. Commander Denny Shelton said that although the sea-going services may not be getting a lot of media attention for their contribution to Operation Iraqi Freedom, sailors and Marines are still on duty and still answering the call to protect and serve at home and abroad just as they have since the U.S. Navy was created.

Shelton said while the Navy has grown in size and sophistication through the years, the courage and sacrifice of its men and women in uniform remains.

He recounted stories of seagoing service men and women who go above and beyond their duties and volunteer to board non-American ships in search of suspected terrorists, not knowing what they may find waiting for them.

"It is the courage of today's sailors, not sophistication, that makes the Navy what it is," he said.

Shelton paid tribute as well to the courage of the families who watch their loved ones go away to sea and remain behind, waiting for their return when their tour of duty is completed.

"My wife has done it four times," he said. "It takes a special kind of person to stay behind. She (wife, Anne) catches the flu, stays up with three boys, no way she can take down time. I'd like to pass a little honor to those people at this time."

Shelton also saluted the 216th Engineer Battalion for their successful tour of duty in Iraq and for their recent receipt of the Meritorious Unit Commendation - the first Ohio National Guard unit to receive the national recognition since World War II.

"I'm dang proud I have friends in that unit," Shelton said.

The annual Navy Night service is meant to honor those who have served or who serve now in the sea-going branches of the military. Master of ceremonies Richard Walton recognized three area residents who all served in the Navy: Ironton attorneys John Wolfe and Harold Spears and career Naval officer Hobart Joe Wiseman.

In his invocation, the Rev. Terry Stivers, pastor of First Church of the Nazarene in Ironton, gave thanks for those who have served their country in years past and prayed as well for those who stand in harms' way today.

"I would be remiss if I did not pray for those in active duty today. I pray for safety in their lives," Stivers prayed.

The Navy Night service began with a traditional march from the Lawrence County Courthouse to the Center Street Boat Landing with the South Point High School band playing along the march route.

Ironton Mayor John Elam read a proclamation declaring Thursday a special day in Ironton in recognition of the Navy Night service. VFW Post 8850 provided color guard and gunnery salute.

The Wilderness Road Girl Scout troop members cast flower petals on the river just before the U.S. Coast Guard laid a wreath in the water.

Ironton resident Susan Taylor sang the National Anthem while River Cities Chorus Director David Maynard sang the Naval Hymn and bugler Martin Smith played "Taps."

The next community gathering will be the annual Woodland Cemetery service Sunday at 2 p.m.