Veterans Day observed at annual city hall service

Published 2:00 pm Monday, November 13, 2023

Winchester and Clark County honored its veterans on Saturday.

The annual Veterans Day service occurred at 11 a.m. in front of Winchester City Hall.

Mayor JoEllen Reed welcomed attendees to the program and provided some remarks before the opening prayer.

Email newsletter signup

“I found these statistics,” Reed said. “The number of veterans in the United States of America are 8.1 million. Sixy-five and older makeup 45 percent of those veterans. The Vietnam veterans make up 5.5 million. The World War II veterans: 183,000. And our homeless vets – and I hate to think about that – 67,495. So, we have a lot to remember today.”

Following the Presentation of Colors by the George Rogers Clark High School JROTC unit, Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates led the assembled crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Following that, Rhonda Blythe sang the National Anthem in the first of several musical tributes that included renditions of “My County ‘Tis of Thee” by Jayde Slattery, “America the Beautiful” by Perri Wilson, “Veteran’s Hallelujah” by Mallory Jones and “Pslam 46 (Lord of Hosts” by Michael Houchens.

Craig Shockley, a field representative from 6th District Congressman Andy Barr’s office, was on hand to encourage those who served.

“Thank you to our veterans, our active duty servicemen, and their families for their sacrifices and unwavering commitment to our country. Thank you for your service to this great nation,” Shockley said.

As part of his remarks, Shockley paid tribute to the men and women who are still enlisted.

“Those on active duty are a credit to the veterans who have gone before them, and those serving today are carrying the torch handed down from you all here today, the service members of yesterday,” he said.

To highlight that point, Shockley shared the story of Winchester native Matthew Bradford, who was inspired to enlist in the U.S. Marines after the events of 9/11.

In 2007, while on a tour of duty in Iraq, Bradford was injured after stepping on an IED.

Bradford lost both legs and his eyesight, among other injuries.

“He had a choice to make about how he would face his injuries and move forward with his life,” Shockley said. “He chose honor, courage and commitment.”

Bradford subsequently reenlisted and has become an avid marathon runner and mountain climber.

“Matthew may have been knocked down that day in January, but one thing that was never taken from him was his heart of a warrior,” Shockley said. “He did not let his enemy take his will to live, his fighting spirit or his resiliency to adapt and overcome his injuries.”

Earlier in the program, Terry Cockrell, who also served with the U.S. Marines, provided information on an organization that serves veterans, Mighty Oaks.

“It is a biblical-based, peer-to-peer group that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress,” Cockrell said about the organization. “Coming out of World War II, I don’t think they got any help, and Vietnam was the same. But the last 20 years, Afghanistan and Iraq, we’ve had a lot of veterans that struggle with that. And a lot of group have come along to try and help them.”

Cockrell said that statistics show that there are around 20 veteran suicides daily.

The founder of Mighty Oaks, Chad Robichaux, was almost one of those 20 before a fortuitous event saved his life. Afterward, he started the organization, whose work quickly spread throughout the country.

“There are 51 team leaders nationwide,” Cockrell said.

The organization offers free support groups for all veterans, their families and first responders that provide information on PTSD, finances and other subjects that lead to a healthier life.

For more information about Mighty Oaks, visit its website online at www.mightyoaksprograms.org.

The ceremony closed with prayers from Monty Corbett, the chaplain of the Winchester Police Department, and from former Mayor Ed Burtner, a Marine veteran.