Past grand marshals honored at annual dinner

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, May 28, 2024

By Mark Shaffer
The Ironton Tribune

With the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day parade just days away, the parade committee held their annual past grand marshal dinner on Tuesday, May 21, at the Knights of Columbus hall.
Master of ceremonies Brent Pyles said the past grand marshals had showed their great dedication of making sure the parade is a successful every year through encouragement and “doing things for the good of all and the good of the parade. This night is your night and we honor you.”
He said the parade is to honor those service people who sacrificed so much for our nation.
The main speaker for the event was retired Marine Corps field radio operator Ron Wroblewski, a Vietnam combat veteran.
He spoke of how the Marines’ mission “is designed to win battles,” “anywhere in the world where there is likely to be conflict.”
He spoke of his time in Vietnam, which he said was rough because it brings back a lot of memories. He said as a field radio operator in 1965 and 1966, he will never forget the sound of an AK-47, the rifle used by enemy forces. The Marines were to serve 13 months in field, but some headed after one day in country, in a body bag with a flag draped over it while others died a few days short of their tour’s end.
He remembered oppressive heat, rats the size of cats, leeches, explosions and the sound of bullets. He remembered how young men came home and brought Vietnam with them and was never the same. Often the battle continued in their minds and post-traumatic stress syndrome wasn’t officially recognized for another 25 years.
He said Vietnam veterans had terrible receptions once they returned to America.
“We Vietnam veterans have a greeting when we see each other – ‘Welcome home.’ Because we never received that when we returned to the world,” he said. “It is our way to welcome each other back because too many of other brothers didn’t make it and that haunts many of us. So, think twice before you ask a war veteran what it was like over there. You may get more than you expected and more than you wanted to hear.”
Pyles then recognized several people and ask them to speak on their parade experience.
First to be recognized was Joe Sharp, the 2023 parade grand marshal who was presented with a flag that flew over Ironton during last year’s parade.
Next was 2024 parade commander Ray Jones, who has had a long career in law enforcement and emergency services in Lawrence County.
He said he felt very honored to be this year’s parade commander since he knows how hard everyone has worked on the parade. He said he comes from a family of service members. His father was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked in WWII.
“To all the men and women in the armed services who keep us safe and free, thank you does not seem enough,” Jones said, adding he could not join the military because of hearing loss in one ear so instead, he has been in public service in Lawrence County for the past 50 years. He started as a paramedic in 1974 and maintains his license. He was a Lawrence County deputy from 1987 until he retired in 2018 and still helps when needed.
“Thank you for the opportunity to represent the parade as the 156th parade commander,” Jones said. “I feel honored and blessed to be here. God bless America.”
Next up was 2024 honorary grand marshal, Patricia Sanders, Lawrence County Common Pleas Probate/Juvenile judge and is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves where she serves as a judge advocate general.
She said that when she was younger, Memorial Day meant family parties and the parade. But after more than 20 years in the Army Reserves, Memorial Day is near and dear to the hearts of service people because it honors those who came before them.
She told the veterans that those who are serving now feel the obligation to continue to fight for the freedom that ensures the rights of Americans.
Sanders was presented with a quilt hand sewn by parade committee member Ruby Kerns.
Next was this year’s grand marshal Ron Thomas who has spent years taking care of the parade divisions.
“He is the kind of worker bee that every committee needs,” Pyles said.
Thomas was then presented with the customary walking stick by Charlie Cook, who carves one every year.
Thomas said since he is not a veteran, he serves by supporting the parade and thanked everyone for the honor of being the 2024 grand marshal.
“It is a real honor,” Thomas said. “I am very glad to be a part of the parade.”
Thomas was then presented a pocket watch engraved with this year’s parade theme of “Life. Liberty. USA” by the parade decoration committee.

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