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The West Township Memorial Association held its Memorial Day service May 29, at Moultrie Chapel.
Vice President of the West Township Memorial Association Jeff Haynam kicked off the outside program as Master of Ceremonies.. Maddox French, fifth grader from United Elementary recited the Gettysburg Address. Patriotic music and taps were provided by the Minerva Community Band, lead by Director Derrick Maxey.
The program inside the chapel was lead by Master of Ceremonies and West Township Memorial Association President Shirley Whiteleather Fox. Troy Haynam gave the invocation and special music was provided by Jenie Ellis. Firing squad was by Don V. Cross American Legion Post 357.
Guest speaker was Dr. Leah Chapman Vincent, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant with past tour duties.
Vincent is a graduate of Minerva High School and earned her Bachelor of Arts from Miami University in Oxford. She is a former U.S. Navy Officer, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Her first tour of duty was as the Gunnery Officer onboard the USS Mustin (DDG-89) stationed out of San Diego, Calif. She spent a six-month deployment in the Northern Arabian Gulf doing maritime security operations in support OIF/OEF during the Iraq War.
Her second tour of duty was aboard the USS Decatur (DDG-73) as the Fire Control Officer. Her ship served as the test platform for a new ballistic missile defense system, culminating in FTM-12, a successful live-fire exercise that was the inaugural launch of a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) from a guided missile destroyer. After deciding she wanted to return to graduate school to pursue a scientific degree, she was discharged honorably from the military as a Lieutenant. She went on to earn her doctoral degree in Emerging Infectious Diseases from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. She continues to serve our country with distinction as a federal employee at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Vincent and her family, two young daughters, Olivia and Elizabeth, along with husband Capt. Josh Vincent, currently serving in Pakistan, reside in Derwood, Md. She is the daughter of Martin and Carol Chapman of Minerva.
Vincent spoke briefly about all of the wars and how many died in each.
"My generation has served in conflicts that range from Iraq to Afghanistan and other countries beyond for 16 years," said Vincent. "There does not appear to be an imminent end in sight."
She told the stories of fallen soldiers and friends Marine Corporal Jeremy J. Fulk, Marine Corporal Mike Cifuentes, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Anthony (Tony) S. Schmactenberger and Lance Corporal Joseph W. Jones.
"I will close by saying thank you to all those who have served out nation," said Vincent. "Thank you to those who fought and died in two World Wars. Those Americans laid down their lives in preservation of democracy, and we own them a debt of gratitude that we must never forget. Thank you to the men and women who served in Korea. As we see tensions again inflamed on the Korean peninsula, we have an obligation to remember the lives we lost there in the last century. Thank you to the veterans of the Vietnam War.
"When you came home from war, you came home to a country that was furious about our involvement overseas. Too often, you were not treated as heroes. But you answered the call all the same. And you deserve our gratitude. Thank you to those who have served in Iraq, during the Gulf War, during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who fight ISIS there today as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve. We still fight the war in Afghanistan today. Thank you to those who have served there and to those who still serve. It has been 16 years but as a nation, we must not forget you and the burden we ask you to bear.
"To all those we have lost, and to those who came home, thank you for the sacrifices you and your families have endured. Thank you."
Attending veterans and Gold Star families were recognized. Joseph Ellis served as song leader and Troy Haynam gave the benediction.
The West Township memorial Association includes: Shirley Whiteleather Fox, president; Jeff Haynam, vice president; Diana Richeson, Secretary: William Ellis, Treasurer; and Stephen Smith.