‘I will whisper their name and I will honor them’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 28, 2023

Parade committee holds past grand marshal dinner on Tuesday

Just days before the 155th Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day parade kicks off, the parade committee gathered for their annual past grand marshal dinner on Tuesday to introduce this year’s grand marshal and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Ohio Senator Terry Johnson was the guest speaker at the 155th Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day parade committee’s past grand marshal dinner on Tuesday. (The Ironton Tribune | Mark Shaffer)

This year’s guest speaker was Terry Johnson, who has been the 14th District Ohio senator since 2019. He has a long list of accomplishments, a retired as a colonel from the Ohio National Guard who served three overseas tours, served as a state surgeon and is a former commander of the National Guard Medical Detachment, was the 89th District State Representative for part of Lawrence, Scioto and Adams counties from 2011-2018. He was the coroner of Scioto County from 2002–2010 and in 2011, he was named the national osteopathic physician and state osteopathic family physician of the year and has been involved in a number of civic and church groups.

155th Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day parade grand marshal Joe Sharp, right, is presented with his cane carved by Charlie Cook, left, on Tuesday at the parade commitee’s annual past grand marshal dinner. (The Ironton Tribune | Mark Shaffer)

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He told the crowd that Memorial Day came out of the post-Civil War tradition of cleaning the headstones of fallen military people, called Decoration Day. It grew from a southern tradition to one that is set aside for all Americans to remember those lost in the wars. 

He said we all have to remember to our put down our phones and enjoy the beauty that is around us so we can all re-connect.

“If we love our country, we have to come together,” he said. “Look at the coin that says ‘E pluribus unum’ – out of many, one. We are losing sight of that.”

Johnson recalled a story about a serviceman asking people to not wish him a happy Memorial Day because it was for the fallen, not the living.

“And he’s right. People do get confused about what this day is actually is,” he said. “This is not a day where we honor people in uniform. It is not a day when we honor veterans who have served. It is a day to honor those who have fallen.”

He said that people have to be nice about it and educate those who don’t what Memorial Day is about.

“It is a uniquely American holiday, celebrated in a uniquely American way,” Johnson said. “It is a peaceful day, a reflective day.”

A plaque was presented to Ron Thomas, this year’s parade commander.

He is a longtime member of the parade committee and is well-known for riding his bike in the parade’s 10th Division so he didn’t have to walk the whole route.

“The parade is like a second home to me,” he said. His first parade was in 1948. “I was a Daniel Boone coonskin cap and something you wouldn’t have today, a single shot .22 rifle. It has been an honor to serve.”

Louie Sheridan, this year’s honorary grand marshal, is a U.S. Navy veteran and was a member of the Ironton Fire Department for 25 years before he retired in 2022.

He thanked Lou Pyles and the parade committee for being the parade’s honorary grand marshal.

“It is my duty to return that honor to the real reason we are here… those individuals who paid the ultimate sacrifice all in the name of freedom and their devotion to our great country,” he said.

He said when he attends Navy Night, the ceremony to honor those lost at sea, he recalls three of his shipmates on the USS Shenandoah who were killed when the destroyer tender was docked at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia.

On Nov. 4, 1992 around 1:41 p.m., Petty Officer 2nd Class Marvin Lloyd, Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas E. Bean, and Seaman Recruit Lisa A. Hamm, were killed when several metal panels, each about eight-foot-tall, four-feet-wide and a quarter inch thick, fell on them.

“I was on duty watch that day,” Sheridan said. “Alarms sounded, medical personnel and stretcher bearers were mustered. There was nothing that could be done,” he said. “We lost three shipmates that day, not at war, not on the field of battle. But yet, they died in service to our country, maintaining the readiness of the fleet.”

He said on Navy Night, after a wreath is put in the Ohio River to honor those lost at sea and “Taps” is played, he says himself the names of his fellow sailors that were lost that day.

“I will whisper their name and I will honor them,” he said.

Sheridan also read an Ironton Tribune article from Nov. 11, 1966 about Billy Sheridan, a 21-year-old Ironton U.S. Army private who wounded by an enemy grenade in the jungles of Vietnam and was recovering in a hospital. He had been saved from serious injury or death by one of his fellow soldiers.

“Billy is my father. So, as I stand Sunday at the Soldiers Plot and I march the parade route, as the volleys ring out and ‘Taps’ echoes, the day is done, gone the sun, go to sleep, peaceful sleep, may the soldier, the sailor, God keep. On the land or in the deep, safe in sleep,” Sheridan said. “I will salute and honor Larry Fuller, knowing his sacrifice is why I am able to be here today.”

Sheridan was presented with a quilt that was handmade by Ruby Kerns.

This year’s grand marshal is Joe Sharp, who has been a part of the parade committee for decades and is well-known for helping out at all their activities from parade preparation to the Woodland Cemetery service to Navy Night.

Next up was Joe Sharp, this year’s grand marshal. He has been with the parade committee for three decades and done everything from placing flags on the cemetery bridge to traffic control.

Although he did not speak to the crowd, everyone applauded as was presented with the customary grand marshal cane carved by Charlie Cook. The cane bore an eagle head and American flag.

The final presentation of the event was a $2,500 check from Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit II to Lou Pyles, the parade commitee’s executive director.