Veterans honored at county fair

Members of Pollywog Place escort members of the Virginia National Guard 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, onto the track during the Veterans Day program at the Shenandoah County Fair last year. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – A steady drizzle wasn’t enough to dampen the patriotic spirit at the Shenandoah County Fair’s Veterans Tribute on Thursday morning. Hundreds gathered at the grandstand to hear guest speakers and welcome back an area National Guard regiment from overseas.

The ceremony began with the arrival of the Virginia National Guard 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, that recently returned from a year of service in the Middle East. Troops were escorted by preschoolers from Pollywog Place nursery and preschool in Woodstock.

After a medley of military hymns from the Central High School Marching Band and essay recitations from local middle schoolers, master of ceremony Ray Powell announced the day’s guest speakers. Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veteran’s Services John Newby gave a brief address focusing on the importance of all military personnel as well as services available to veterans who might need them.

“We currently have over 2,000 Virginia National Guardsmen overseas in harm’s way right now,” Newby said after welcoming the troops home. “We are number two in the nation as a state as far as the number of guardsmen and women we have deported overseas. We really owe a lot to our National Guard for what they do on a daily basis side by side our active duty services.”

Newby said he and the department he heads are there for veterans should the need arise.

Korean War veterans pause for a prayer during the Veterans Day program. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We have to give them (veterans) services that they are owed and due because of their service,” Newby said as many applauded. “The Commonwealth of Virginia has a great suite of services for veterans. We work hand in hand with our partners at the VA. We are proud to provide benefit services to our veterans. We are proud to provide long-term care. We are proud to provide our own statewide wounded warrior-type program here in Virginia for veterans who come back with TBI, PTSD and other mental health issues. We are so proud to provide all of these services.”

Newby and his department had a tent set up at the fair and encouraged any veterans with questions to visit it.

Following Newby’s address, Timothy Cooke, director of the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, spoke on the challenges faced by veterans returning to civilian life – medically, socially and otherwise.

“We touch many of the veterans in our community,” Cooke said. “I just want to make sure that we all recognize the importance of how the veterans connect with the community. … It’s up to these communities to take on that responsibility to help them get back into civilian life. That reintegration is so important. Many of you who have come back already know how important it is to be welcomed; how important it is to feel connected and how important it is to know that there are services that are there to support you at all times. … It’s our opportunity to reach out a hand and say thank you.”

Powell ended the celebration with some parting words.

David McClanahan, 91, an Army WWII veteran, holds onto his cane as he watches the procession during the Veterans Day program. Rich Cooley/Daily

“This is a very patriotic valley,” he said. “We’re thankful that we have people supporting us. Let us remember and pray for those who are currently serving in the armed forces defending the freedoms that we hold so dear. Veterans, today is your day. Visit with each other. Make new friends. Renew friendships. Share stories of years gone by and battles that we won protecting our freedoms.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or