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Honoring our vets: Annual event gets female perspective

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By The Staff

By ALIX MATTINGLY

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Reporter, The Oldham Era
 

The room was a buzz with cheerful hellos as men in patriotic lapel pins set out extra chairs for the unexpected large audience. The mood quickly shifted to a silent sense of dignity as Ned Snow, commander of American Legion Post #39, took to the lectern to open the annual Veteran’s Day program at the John Black Community Center in Buckner Monday.

A standing ovation soon followed a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance that was led by retired Master Sergeant Howard Griffin of Centerfield. Griffin was one of two World War II veterans in the audience.  At age 16 Griffin enlisted in the Army and was sent to Africa to take part in reconnaissance work, he said. During a tour in Europe, Griffin was injured but shortly returned to the field and he went on to participate in the Battle of the Bulge.

After returning home, Griffin was called to fight again in Korea and Vietnam. He was injured in both wars but was never sent home. Griffin’s legacy as a patriot was furthered when he was the only World War II veteran to march in the Veteran’s Day Parade in Louisville on Monday, with a simple reason.

“I don’t want people to forget,” he said.

Guest speaker retired Captain Marj Graves, echoed Griffin’s sentiment. Graves became an Army nurse as a way to break away from her father who “thought women should be seen and not heard,” she said.

Shortly after joining, Graves was sent to Vietnam.

“I was the only American woman on that flight other than the flight attendant,” Graves said, “I was scared to death.”

As Graves continued to speak, she revealed her journey to acceptance of what she witnessed as a young nurse in what she called her “War to Peace.” She recounted statistics of the Vietnam War and noted the women she worked with were “ordinary women trying to work in an extraordinary situation.”

She went on to share how she thought she “would be the Florence Nightingale” of Vietnam and quickly realized that she was in for more than she could have expected. Graves told the crowd how her tour in Vietnam made her question who she was and ultimately lead to her “putting up a wall” to hide her depression.

Graves said she became a “master at separating feelings from appropriate emotional response.”Through marriage and childbirth Graves kept her wall up until 1993. When she went to the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington D.C. It was then she began to face the emotions she surpressed in 2005. She attempted suicide only to realize that she wanted to live. Graves went on to seek help with her depression and has now come to terms with the circumstances that challenged her sense of self.

Graves ended her speech by quoting Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA” and said “It changed me and I can say it changed me for the better even though I had my war to peace.”

Graves encouraged younger generations to remember the sacrifices that were made for their future.