ELYRIA — As each name of a past military member was read off Wednesday afternoon, men and women, both old and young who share the common bond of service, stood at attention and waited while someone came to their table and placed a pin on their lapel, shirt collar or chest.
It was a simple gesture — just a few seconds long — that was repeated more than 100 times inside the Spitzer Conference Center at Lorain County Community College. Yet, no one seemed to mind the repetition of each veteran being recognized in the small way — a more than appropriately timed ceremony less than two weeks from Veterans Day.
“I am still in awe of how many veterans have never heard the words, ‘thank you,’ and ‘welcome home,’ ” said Bill Finn, CEO of Hospice of Western Reserve.
That will never be the case for the servicemen and servicewomen who participated in Wednesday’s salute, sponsored by LCCC and Hospice of Western Reserve. And, for those who were honored, the simple words are and will continue to be enough.
“Just say thank you for your service,” said 89-year-old Gordon Green of Wellington.
Green, who many know from his years on the Lorain County Fair Board, is also a veteran of World War II.
“It’s not that we or I don’t like to talk about what we did and think we shouldn’t get recognized,” Green said. “If the community wants to recognize us, I think we have a duty to be here. We know what we can say and what needs to be left out. And, for that we just want to hear, ‘thank you.’ ”
Green, who served in Germany from 1944 to 1945, said his opinion of military duty has not wavered since his days of service. Upon leaving the Army, he returned to Lorain County to run the family farm with his wife, Ilarae.
“I thought we all should do our part to keep our country safe and that’s true even today,” he said.
While many of the honorees in attendance were from the World War II era, a large number were from other conflicts — Korea, Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. And time is slowly running out to honor those older veterans.
“It is literally a dying generation,” said Nathan Grasisher of Hospice of Western Reserve. “It always amazes me how we are seeing fewer and fewer patients from that time and more from more recent conflicts. It only reinforces for me why it’s important that we are a part of these kinds of life enrichment events.”
Dora Francis-Boyd said that after growing up in Louisiana, going to the Army was considered the next logical step after high school. There was little talk of heading to college in her neighborhood as most saw the military as their ticket out of poverty and public housing.
“I joined because I wanted to be something successful in the world,” she said.
She joined at 18 in 1979. She served at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Fort Stewart, Ga. For several years afterward, she was inactive reserve and in 1989 signed up for active reserve and was eventually sent to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm.
Being a woman, Francis-Boyd said she sometimes wonders if her time and sacrifice is as appreciated as her male counterparts. But going to ceremonies that aim to include all veterans does help. It reminds her of why she started out on the military path and what it has given to her that she can share with her children.
“I went so they didn’t have to,” she said. “I served and their father served. We’ve given enough. All my kids went to college and got good jobs. That’s what my service did for this country.”
Francis-Boyd is also a graduate of LCCC, where she earned an associate and bachelor’s degree through Cleveland State University in psychology.
Tracy Green, vice president for Strategic and Institutional Development, said there are about 900 students in the last academic year at LCCC who are classified a veterans, but she suspects the number is higher.
“Serving veterans is a part of our history. This college and many other community colleges were founded to serve veterans returning from World War II,” she said. “In them, we saw and continue to see veterans who should be afforded the opportunity to leverage the skills they learned overseas into an education and careers as civilians. We thank our veterans by being there for them every day.”