PIKEVILLE — Pike County saluted those who have served in America’s armed forces in a program held Thursday at the Pike County Courthouse.
Pike County Deputy Judge-Executive John Doug Hayes, an Air Force veteran, opened the ceremony.
“We often take for granted our basic freedoms,” Hayes said. “But someone sacrificed for those freedoms, from the Revolutionary War to our present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said he felt the same pride the late Sen. Robert Byrd did in the way people from the area answered the call to service.
“I often heard Sen. Byrd begin a speech by saying, ‘I am a son of Central Appalachia. When the President declares war, more of us volunteer than any other part of the country.’”
Hayes asked for veterans to stand, starting with any World War I vets. There were none attending; only two World War II veterans were at the ceremony. However, several veterans, starting with those from the Korea era to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were present to be honored.
The keynote speaker for the event was Kentucky Supreme Court Justice, Pike County native and U.S. Army veteran, Will T. Scott.
Justice Scott, a decorated Vietnam veteran, was named by Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. in 2010 to head the Veterans Task Force as part of the work of the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission.
The Veterans Task Force is working to improve the court system’s ability to identify veterans in need; to connect those veterans with appropriate services, programs and treatment; and to create new programs to help veterans involved in the justice system, such as the first Veterans Treatment Court in Kentucky. The task force is composed of leaders from all levels of state government as well as other stakeholders involved with veterans’ issues.
“I wrote home when I was in the Army,” Scott, a combat veteran of Vietnam, said. “And received care packages. But it never entered my mind that my family went to bed every night worried about me.”
He said that changed in 2003, when his son began serving in Baghdad, Iraq.
“I never had a day I wasn’t scared,” Scott said. “Now, when I think of veterans, I think of all the families that serve with them.”
James Young, a Marine veteran who served 20 years, including Vietnam, had a request of those attending the ceremony. He said that when Vietnam era vets returned home, it was heartbreaking that they returned to a country that did not seem to appreciate their service.
“I am asking the public to do something that won’t cost them a dime,” Scott said. “If you see a man or a woman in uniform, put your arm around them, welcome them home. Tell them ‘thank you.’ Show them that patriotic is not just a word in the dictionary.”