They may be a group of old war veterans, but they have a lot of spunk.
Members of the Christ Dunberger American Legion Post No. 537 Color Guard and Rifle Squad were presented with a Community Improvement Award by Oregon and Northwood mayors Marge Brown and Mark Stoner Wednesday night at the 16th Annual Prism Awards.
The Community Improvement Award is always presented to a community-based, non-profit organization primarily run by volunteers or with an emphasis on volunteerism.
The 30-member Color Guard and Rifle Squad, founded in 1989, performs at many community events including Memorial Day and Veterans Day services. The Color Guard also provides support services for the families of fellow veterans by performing memorial funeral services throughout Lucas County.
Color Guard members have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War.
“Their somber, disciplined performances helps humanize military service and the losses involved for the public,” stated the Prism Award booklet.
Color Guard members use their personal and vacation time to attend a memorial and they pay their own expenses. There is no cost to the recipients.
Heading up the aisle towards the award platform upon the announcement were veterans in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, but that didn’t keep them from their destination. Once they were lined up in front of guests at the Sunrise Park and Banquet Center in Millbury, they were rewarded with a stand-up ovation.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Belli, a full-time pilot with the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, joined in on honoring the Color Guard.
Belli, who is originally from Huron, Ohio, but now lives in Oregon, has been to Iraq several times, and said he “recently lost a buddy over there” in the line of duty.
“It’s pretty easy to understand when you lose someone in the line of duty how important it is to honor them,” Lt. Col. Belli said. “Unfortunately, the military doesn’t always have the means to do that, and that’s where these guys come in.
“People are in this business because they want to be. For a grandfather who fought in World War II, his grandchildren may not understand how important it is until after they’ve heard these guys play Taps.”
Oregon Economic Development Foundation director Gary Thompson, who helped emcee the event, said, “Many Friday nights you see these gentlemen at the football field. You see these gentlemen in parades. Gentlemen, we love you. Thank you.”
Upon arriving at the platform, a member of the Color Guard asked Channel 11 weather analyst and co-emcee Tara Hastings for a hug, and he got it. Hastings said she had family members who served in the military and “knows how important it is.”
Another Color Guard member went to the podium and spoke.
“If you’ve ever been to any of our funerals, sometimes we sound real good and sometimes we sound real bad,” the Color Guard member joked. “Anyways, you can see what you’re going to look like in a few more years. When we get a new recruit, he’s usually in his 60s, and most of us are in our 60s, some are in our 70s, and a few of us in our 80s.”
Color Guard members from Oregon are Gary Arquette, Jack Engelhart, Doug Kigar, Tito Martinez Jr., William J. Moritz, Ralph Nissen, Ed Placko, Joseph W. Poddany, George Shanks, Robert Vincent, Leonard J. Wasserman, David Hampshire, and Donald Zellner.
Other members include (Toledo) Chris G. Grevis Sr., John C. Hatfield, Joseph J. Staunton Jr., Larry A. Warntmont; (Curtice) Frank Cruthers, Jim Ernsthausen, Robert E. Helle, Walter Rettenberger; (Walbridge) Frank Grosjean, Leroy E. McLargin, Emeterio Reyes; (Northwood) Robert Bassitt; (Rossford) Kenneth Brown, (Perrysburg) Elroy S. Buehler; (Elmore) David Meyer; and (Millbury) Charles Walters.