When Harry Reichow returned from Vietnam decades ago, there was no breakfast to honor him or fair to help point him to the resources he might need.
Times have changed.
Wearing his military hat and seated at a long row of tables inside the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena on Monday, Mr. Reichow, 63, and his wife, Diane, were among the more than 450 people gathered at the Eighth Annual Veterans Appreciation Breakfast and Fair.
The couple enjoyed a free breakfast, time to socialize with other veterans, and the pleasure of hearing a resounding “thank you” from their community.
“When I can home from the Vietnam War, there was nothing. No fanfare,” said Mr. Reichow, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1972.
“Something like this encourages the young to better understand, to go back in time and read about what these veterans did,” Mrs. Reichow added. “Every time we see a vet, young or old, I thank him for defending our freedom.”
Held annually on Veterans Day — or, as this year, the day on which Veterans Day is celebrated — the breakfast is sponsored by several local businesses and community organizations. In addition to scrambled eggs and sausage links, veterans and their families are offered a chance to browse booths to gather information about groups or services they might need.
The event not only celebrated the veterans who were at the event but also remembered the many who weren’t.
A memorial ceremony complete with the color guard and “Taps” was a part of the event “to honor, to remember, and to pay tribute to those brave individuals who fought for our liberties,” said Cadet LTC Joshua Fletcher, a member of the UT U.S. Army ROTC.
Although planned to be held at the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza on the UT campus, the ceremony was held inside because of rain. The unyielding weather, however, did not chill the spirits of those who came together to see old friends and meet new ones.
Ralph Trease of Toledo and his wife, Elizabeth, both 88, said they enjoyed seeing the “old timers.” A World War II veteran who was a corporal in the Army, Mr. Trease said he appreciated the community’s efforts to “recognize and appreciate the veterans.”
A member of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 5530, Mr. Trease said he hopes the younger generation of veterans will become active in local organizations that offer support and camaraderie.
“We have a lot of young veterans coming out now,” he said. “… We’re having trouble encouraging them to become more involved.”
In addition to military members, several local officials attended to honor veterans, including Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo). The keynote address was given by Col. Steven Nordhaus, commander of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio National Guard.
The colonel reminded the audience that they were among the more than 50 million Americans who have served in the military since 1776. And he asked that everyone remember the 1.3 million men and women who have given their lives.
Colonel Nordhaus said that while technology and “the business of warfare” has changed, one thing has remained constant, “The character and resourcefulness of the men and women in uniform.”
Capt. Trent Miller, 32, is a graduate student in the UT business administration program and current member of the U.S. Army. With nine years in the military, he spent one year in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
He said he attended the breakfast to meet other veterans with similar service, although perhaps during a different time. A former member of the 101st Airborne, the captain said he sat next to a fellow 101st member from World War II.
“We were separated by about 60 years,” he said.
Noting that only about half of 1 percent of the U.S. population is currently in the military, Captain Miller said appreciation events such as Monday’s are important reminders of the sacrifices that many have made and will continue to make.
“People are out of touch with what’s going on because they don’t have friends or family in the military,” he said.
“It’s good for us to get together as veterans and it’s good for others to see.”
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.