LORAIN — The city’s Veterans Day ceremony at Black River Landing included news about the future of Victory Park, which includes a statue dedicated to soldiers from Lorain who died in World War I.
Council last Monday approved opening bids for the parcels that make up the park, which Mayor Chase Ritenauer had said would allow a veterans group to purchase the property. He also had said, though, that opening the bids meant anyone could purchase the property.
Lorain Port Authority Executive Director Tom Brown said Sunday that the Port Authority approached the city with another option following media coverage and discussion on the property bids.
“In the past week there’s been a lot of newspaper articles and a lot of angst; and sometimes in life when you start with a good mission, things get sideways and government gets in the way and people get in the way and emotions get in the way,” Brown said. “But what happened in the past week is the city administration decided to assist the (Disabled American Veterans) in furthering its mission over there at Victory Park. And what happened is through the best of intentions, government, as I stated, sometimes gets in the way.”
In a news release, the Port Authority said that, pending approval by its board and City Council, the city would transfer the property to the Port Authority under the condition that the Lady Victory and “V” statues remain in place. The city would make improvements to surrounding sidewalks and the right-of-way, and the Port Authority would work with the Disabled American Veterans, whose building is on the property, to further its mission.
“The partnership of the City of Lorain and the Lorain Port Authority on this project illustrates the shared commitment to the community and its veterans as well as an acknowledgement to remove any doubt about the future of this treasured park,” the news release said.
After the announcement about the future of Victory Park, local veterans, prisoners of war and soldiers missing or killed in action were honored. The ceremony also commemorated the 100th anniversaries of the American Legion and the end of WWI.
Lorain Veterans Council President Tim Carrion opened the morning’s ceremony, reminding attendees of the truce signed on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” and the celebration of peace that has since become Veterans Day.
“Nov. 11 became a day to remember, to remember those that fought and for the peace that then became a national holiday known as Armistice Day,” Carrion said. “Later, the day was renamed Veterans Day to remember those who served in all wars, as well as in peacetime. … It is a time to honor members of the armed forces for their service while enlisted and to recognize the fact that many continue to serve as leaders in their local communities after hanging up their uniform.”
Nelson Dunfee, American Legion Post 30 commander, thanked the Lorain Veterans Council for recognizing the American Legion’s anniversary, started in 1919 by WWI veterans.
“I feel that the biggest untapped resource in the country is our veterans organizations and our veterans, regardless of their age or physical attributes that they now have. … It’s always a privilege getting to talk to my fellow veterans; anytime I get a chance to share time with them is a privilege.”
Nelson also recognized Carl Cunningham for 50 years of service with the American Legion. He also mentioned a new nonprofit the American Legion has founded, Stars and Stripes Judo Club — which provides free instruction to veterans and community members.
Lorain High School’s JROTC posted the colors and conducted the POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony — held at a table at the front of the room with an empty chair set for each branch of the military. The ceremony recognized soldiers captured, missing or killed in action who haven’t been found. JROTC Capt. Cheyenne Sowards, 17, explained the symbolism within each part of the display. Sowards is a senior at Lorain High School and has participated in JROTC for the past four years.
“Remember, the chairs are empty. They are not here,” she read. “Remember, all of you who have served with them and called them brothers and sisters, who depended upon their might and aim and relied on them. Remember them, for surely, they have not forgotten you.”
Following a Department of Defense pinning ceremony by Mary Jane Burger and other members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Lorain Veteran Council recognized Joyce Young, who researches and helps maintain the county’s Vietnam War memorial in Amherst and the Lorain High School JROTC. Cadet Cpl. Karelis Angulo, 16, is the school’s JROTC Color Guard commander.
The Lorain Veterans Council Rifle Squad did a gun salute, while another member played taps. At 11 p.m. Sunday night, a vigil was held in Victory Park, with community members and veterans organizations gathering to read the names of local service members killed in action.