Speaking on “Patriotism for Today,” Sgt. Paul Cowdrey, a Safety Officer of the Ohio Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing, reminded the public to give thanks for the courage and patriotism all American soldiers exhibit during Wauseon’s Memorial Day ceremonial observance on Monday.
“To be a patriot, a person needs to have the desire, drive, motivation, passion, and willingness to place the needs of his countrymen before his own needs…My definition of patriotism is a passion of sacrifice and love and respect for my country,” he said.
Originally joining the Air Force in 1990, Sgt. Cowdrey served two years in active duty at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia as an Aerospace Ground Equipment Mechanic Journeyman earning the Air Force’s Commendation, Achievement, and Reserve Meritorious Service medals, as well as the National Defense Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Drawing on the sacrifice and loyalty exhibited by the Tuskegee Airman and Doolittle Raiders, both of whom celebrate their 75th anniversary this year, Sgt. Cowdrey asked that residents not only remember serviceman who paid the ultimate sacrifice on the designated holiday, but through daily reminders and democratic acts such as voting, speaking freely, and practicing one’s desired religion.
“As we gather to honor the memories of the fallen, a piece of us struggles to understand the meaning of such sacrifice, but when we look up to see our flag, our banner of freedom, soaring high…we are reminded of that meeting,” he said.
After stops in Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, Sgt. Cowdrey joined the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton in 1997 as an Occupational Safety Specialist. He currently resides in Waterville with his wife and five children.
Prior to the ceremony held at Wauseon Union Cemetery, a parade including police cars, fire engines, the Fulton County Honor Guard, the Wauseon High School Marching Indians, 2016 Homecoming Queen Emalee Stewart, and Boy Scout Troop 8 made its way from the city’s fire station to the cemetery.
The ceremony, hosted by American Legion Post 265, VFW Post 7424, and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 78, featured a performance by the Wauseon High School Choral, recitations of “In Flanders Fields” and the Gettysburg Address delivered by 2017 Wauseon High School graduates Aaron Spiess and Julie Kahrs, and the recognition of veterans with an armed forces salute from the Wauseon High School Band.
The legion’s Americanism Chairman and coordinator of the event, former Fulton County Common Pleas Judge James Barber, noted that the number of veterans in attendance has continually dwindled over the years. He and Post Commander Mark Mahlman payed tribute to those veterans passing within the last year: James R. Beck, Carson J. Dixon, Calvin D. Gorsuch, Roger A. Harman, Robert E. Leach, Richard E. Herrick, Robert S. Roland, Richard E. Sack, Wayne E. Scherer, Albert R. Speck, Robert J. Teft, Ray Wells, Wayne L. Willeman, and Merle R. Zimmerman.
Also recognized were Americanism award recipients. The six Wauseon High School students who scored the highest on a government exam given by the Legion were sophomore Aubrey Starkweather, juniors Carissa Hoffman, Cory Johnson, and Mac Warncke, and seniors Sofia Barajas and Jacob Holthues.
Pastor Mike Berne of Christ United Methodist Church gave a benediction asking for peace to watch over the entire world and and protection over those in the armed forces. Concluding the ceremony was the presentation of memorial wreaths, the playing of taps, and a rifle salute by the Fulton County Honor Guard.
Reach Cory Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org