By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Watching a group of young Army recruits go through basic training exercises at the Shenandoah County Fair on Wednesday morning brought back memories for Jake Mantz.
"Just getting it right so you didn't get yelled at," he said.
"Amen," added Oley Racey, Mantz's father-in-law. "You learned it, and if you didn't they had you doing push-ups all the time. ... They whipped us into shape."
Mantz and Racey were two of the many veterans at the fair's veterans' day on Wednesday. Along with a variety of military-related demonstrations and displays, attendees were able to take in the sounds of the Fort Lee Army Dixieland Band and remarks by Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, a Woodstock native who is head of the Army Accessions Command, and others.
As he watched the drill exercises, Mantz said they were "all about teaching you attention to detail." He worked on helicopters while in the Air Force, he said, and attention to detail was critical.
"And, [the training] taught you to rely on each other," he said.
It's important to recognize "the sacrifice that each of these veterans make," Mantz said. Those who enlist now do so knowing there's a good chance they will see combat and may have to lay down their lives, he said.
The appreciation of veterans has improved greatly over the years, he said.
"Now, I think there's a lot of people giving a lot of recognition, and I think they should," he said.
Racey, of Woodstock, was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, he said. Serving was "tough," he said, but he doesn't regret going to Vietnam.
Showing veterans appreciation is "a huge thing," he said.
During the day's opening ceremony, Steve Jennings said "one guest is lost and that is [Oliver] North," who was on assignment for the FOX News Channel. Jennings welcomed the crowd and introduced Wade Zirkle, a former Marine Corps captain who was wounded in Iraq.
"Freedom does not come cheap, and it's because of your sacrifice that we continue to live in the land of liberty," Zirkle told the crowd.
Freakley said it is important for each citizen to stand firm in the belief that America is a great country.
During fair week, he said, the county celebrates its youth and its agriculture, but "our veterans have allowed us to celebrate our heritage" and have "secured our rights." And, as the county pauses to celebrate its veterans, it should also remember the "battle buddies who did not come home," he said.
"So today, while we celebrate our veterans, I ask us to celebrate our fallen," Freakley said. "They're not here, except they're right here in our hearts."
After the ceremony, Freakley said he tries to convey to the veterans he talks to "how grateful we are for their service." If someone knows someone who has served, he said, they ought to thank them.
"We ought to encourage our youth to serve," whether in the military or civilian forces, he said.