Navy Night honors those lost at sea

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

Keynote speaker CDR Kirk Morris, of the U.S. Navy, takes the podium at the annual Navy Night ceremony on the Ironton riverfront. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

First of many Memorial Day weekend events

Lawrence County’s longtime Memorial Day tradition got its start on Thursday, with the annual Navy Night event on the Ironton riverfront.

The ceremony, the first of the lead-in events to the 155th Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade, honors those who served in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

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“We remember that freedom is never free and the sacrifices that were made,” Chad Pemberton said, while delivering the opening prayer.

Retired Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper served as master of ceremonies, while Ironton VFW Post 8850 opened the ceremony with the posting of colors.

Lori Donahue provided music throughout the evening, while a proclamation was read by Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit II proclaiming it as Navy Night in the city.

Cramblit noted that the ceremony is the “first public memorial service of the weekend.”

The keynote speaker for the event was CDR Kirk Morris, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy Reserve Eleanor, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota who grew up in southern California.

Scout Troop 106, of Ironton, folds the flag the annual Navy Night ceremony on the Ironton riverfront. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Morris noted that it is the 18th year for the reserve to take part in the ceremony and the third year for his family.

“Nobody does better than Ironton, Ohio in celebrating Memorial Day,” he said.

Morris has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal three times the Navy Corps Achievement Medal two times and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award. Morris spoke of the city’s history in the 1800s as a producer of iron ore.

“Among the buyers was the U.S. Navy,” he said.

Morris said that the iron from the city was instrumental in transitioning the Navy away from wooden sail ships to iron clad steam ship and provided the opportunity for more advances and the development of today’s Navy.

At the close of the event, the Lawrence County Sheriff Marine patrol and Scout Troop 106, of Ironton, placed a memorial wreath in the waters of the Ohio River.

“These are people who love their community and love their country,” scoutmaster Dave Lucas said of the troop, before they conducted a flag folding ceremony earlier in the evening.

Memorial Day weekend events continue tonight, with a fireworks display, launched from the riverfront and viewable from downtown, followed by the Woodland Cemetery memorial service, set for 2 p.m. Sunday in the cemetery’s Soldiers Plot.

A patriot award was given to Brent Pyles and Rich Donahue.

The Ironton Lawrence County Memorial Day parade steps off at 10 a.m. on Monday.