The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022

Memorial Day events honor local soldiers

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Monday was the day local communities celebrated Memorial Day, the day when those in the military who made the “ultimate sacrifice” — giving their lives for their country — are honored.

Members of Van Wert veterans organizations provide a 21-gun salute to honor American soldiers who died for their country. (photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Members of Van Wert veterans organizations provide a 21-gun salute to honor American soldiers who died for their country. (photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

In Van Wert, several veterans groups got together for a traditional Memorial Day service in Woodland Cemetery on Monday morning. The event began with patriotic music provided by the Van Wert Brass Quartet, while flags carried by members of the American Legion Riders and a color guard comprised of members of several veterans organizations, rode and marched to the site of the Memorial Day service.

Dick Heitz, chaplain for Chapter 54, Disabled American Veterans, welcomed those who attended, while Dick Elder, color guard chaplain, gave the invocation and, later, the benediction.

Colleen Wiley, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5803, then introduced the speaker: Pastor Robert Frake of Van Wert Apostolic Church.

Pastor Frake described in detail the capture of British spy Major John Andre, who was carrying an agreement with American general Benedict Arnold, commander of the fort at West Point, New York, to turn the fort over to the British for 20,000 British pounds.

Andre, who was making his way back to the British lines, was captured by three American soldiers: David Williams, John Paulding, and Isaac Van Wart.

Frake told how Major Andre, mistaking the Hessian coat that Paulding was wearing as a sign he had reached the British lines, first identified himself as a British officer, but changed that to an American officer when Williams, Paulding, and Van Wart said they were American soldiers.

The trio, now suspicious of Andre, searched the officer and found the documents describing the agreement and incriminating Benedict Arnold, whose name has become synonymous with treason.

Pastor Robert Frake talks about the capture of British spy Major John Andre.
Pastor Robert Frake talks about the capture of British spy Major John Andre.

For their part in Major Andre’s arrest and subsequent execution, Williams, Paulding, and Van Wart were given the first American military decoration, the Fidelity Medallion, by Commander-In-Chief General George Washington. The site of Andre’s arrest, now in Tarrytown, New York, is called Patriots Park.

Pastor Frake said he felt the word “fidelity”, which means faithfulness and reliability, was appropriate when talking about fallen veterans. “To honor those who have shown such great fidelity … who could give no more than what they gave to us,” he added.

Pastor Frake then closed his talk by reading the poem “Flanders Field” honoring those who died during World War I.

Following his talk, World War II veteran Gayle Shutt laid a wreath at the Veterans Memorial in the cemetery and hoisted the nearby American flag from half-mast status, followed by a 21-gun salute from a combined veterans honor guard and the playing of “Taps.”

After the Woodland Cemetery service, those present convened to Memorial Park adjacent to American Legion Post 178 to lay another wreath at a memorial there. A luncheon was then held at VFW Post 5803.

POSTED: 05/31/16 at 8:15 am. FILED UNDER: News