By Rick Wolcott*
“War is a terrible thing. I remember Pearl Harbor today, just like it was yesterday,” said 94 year-old Bob Bishop. He served 11 years in the Navy, during which time his ship made 13 major amphibious operations and was part of one major sea battle.
“I’m glad I survived,” he said.
On Sunday, November 15 West Austintown First United Methodist Church (Mahoning Valley District) recognized Bishop and 26 other veterans, who are members of the congregation.
At the beginning of the service each of the veterans was presented with a 3 ½’ by 3 ½’ lap blanket, courtesy of the church’s Mission Committee and its unit of United Methodist Women.
The crocheted blankets, each with an American Flag at the center, were the idea of UMW president Gerry Wilson. It took UMW treasurer Linda Williams 13 weeks to complete the labor of love.
“My father served in World War II and my father-in-law was part of the occupation forces in Japan after the war,” she said. “We really want to thank our veterans for their service and show them our appreciation.”
“This is an exciting congregation,” said the Rev. George Lee, who is in his eighth year as pastor of the church. “I’m very grateful that they took the time to honor our veterans.”
Lee was one of the veterans who was recognized. He served in the Strategic Air Command with the Air Force from 1956-61.
The Veterans Day Service at West Austintown UMC featured the musical program “God Bless America,” performed by 16 year-old pianist Timothy Noble.
“I feel honored to be able to honor them,” said Noble, whose performance was backed by projected visuals, narration by this father, accompaniment from his mother, and assistance from his younger sister and brother.
“I’m grateful to have been able to be here to play music to honor them,” he said.
“The whole program was a joy, a pure joy,” said Shaffer Cormell, who served in the Navy during the Korean War.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” echoed Ken Hatfield, a veteran of the Army.
“Today is a celebration that we are free,” said Bishop as he clutched the hand of Doris, his wife of 72 years.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.