Veterans and first responders honored at Labor Day event


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — A steady drizzle may have dampened the Red, White & Blue festivities to honor veterans and first responders on Saturday, but the spirit of the event could not be extinguished. From the food truck rally in the afternoon to the concerts in the evening, hundreds came out to support the event and to learn more about local veterans, firefighters, law enforcement, and rescue services.

The Darke County Sheriff’s Department, Greenville Police Department, Greenville Township Rescue, Greenville Fire Department and Darke County Veterans Services were on-hand to offer information or allow visitors to get an upclose look at some of the equipment Greenville and Darke County residents are blessed to have available.

Sheriff Mark Whittaker, Darke County Commissioner Matt Aultman and Veterans Services Commissioner Gaylen Blosser spoke to those gathered.

When introducing Sheriff Whittaker, Eric Fee, emcee and one of the organizers of the event said, “What I’ve noticed over the last couple of months since he has been sheriff, he’s so involved in the community and he’s getting out there, working hard to make this the best community ever.”

Whittaker said, “This is Labor Day, so I want to thank all the hard working Americans no matter what you do, especially those here in Darke County who work hard and make Darke County the county that it is.” He continued, “I think we are a hard working county. I think we are a good example of what the United States of America needs to see.”

The sheriff praised local first responders and expressed his concern with the “bad rap” that some law enforcement and first responders get around the country. He pointed out that this is not the case, locally. “I feel that the citizens of Darke County openly and oftentimes support your first responders. I can’t express how much that means to us.”

Whittaker continued, “On behalf of the first responders of Darke County, I want to thank you, the citizens of Darke County.”

Even though Darke County is fortunate to have fine men and women serving the community, Sheriff Whittaker said they are seeing a reduction in staff across the board. He noted the sheriff’s department is hiring, fire departments are looking for firemen and EMS is also searching for EMTs and paramedics. Although he tells people they will never get rich in government work, he said, “I go home and feel good about the job that I do when I serve the citizens that I do.” He encouraged young people to discover a career as a first responder. “We do need help throughout the county.”

Darke County Commissioner Matt Aultman praised the atmosphere a rural community like Darke County has. He shared that rural communities give up 44 percent of their members to military service. “Look to your left and look to your right and you will see a veteran.” Even more impressive is that 24 percent of those who retire from military service return to the rural community the came from. That number decreases dramatically for those that came from an urban community. “We’ve got great people coming back to live in our community,” he said.

Aultman also praised Darke County’s first responders and their dedication to the community. He shared that 53 percent of rural EMS workers are volunteers. Those individuals have a “true passion” for their craft when they come out and “take care of us when we are in need,” said Aultman.

In communities of less than 25,000 people, 95 percent of firefighters are volunteers. “What does that mean,” he asked? “Like Sheriff Whittaker said, we are in need of folks and volunteers. It is a major thing,” Autlman added.

Aultman pointed out that we have state of the art equpment in the county and it is definitely needed. With agriculture getting bigger and better equpment and grain bins seemingly getting bigger all of the time, the state of the state of the art equipment is needed.

Both Aultman and Blosser encouraged to veterans to take advantage of the services offered by the county. “We have a new recorder and her mission is get veterans to record their DD Form 214,” said Aultman.

Blosser, a veteran and commissioner for the county’s veteran services board, shared that “Darke County is home to 3,300 veterans.” This is a much larger percentage than most American counties. The commission works to make sure all of these veterans get the services and benefits they are entitled. They provide transportation to the VA hospital, financial assistance to veterans in need, trips to Washington, DC and Columbus to visit memorials, and issues veterans ID cards, which help those who have served get discounts at retail stores and restaurants or get in at no cost to national parks.

In addition to the speakers, American Legion Post 353 provided Colors and a salute to veterans that have passed. Mora Menzie sang the National Anthem. Menzie and her band, Mora Menzie & the Boys opened the concert with Shannon Clark & the Sugar closing the show.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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