Honoring veterans: Bradford County Veterans Appreciation Day picnic attended by 2,000 or more people
WYSOX - On Sunday, there was some unusual entertainment for the estimated 2,000 or more people who attended the 26th Annual Bradford County Veterans Appreciation Day picnic in Wysox.
Singing at the picnic was Ike Bowers of the Canton area, who currently performs with the Clovers, a group that in 1959 released the original recording of "Love Potion Number 9," which is still heard today on oldies radio stations. The current lineup of the Clovers, who perform up and down the East Coast, includes the last living original member of the group, Harold Winley.
Also performing at the picnic was U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, who sang the Johnnie Taylor hit, "Who's Making Love."
Marino, Army Reserve Major Gen. Leslie Purser, and Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller were among those who served food to the veterans and others who attended the picnic, which was held on the grounds of the Wysox Fire Hall.
The picnic is held each year to honor veterans, who receive their meal free. Besides food and a lot of live musical entertainment, the event also featured a Chinese auction, informational booths manned by veterans-related organizations, and a display of military memorabilia set up by the Endless Mountains War Memorial Museum of Sonestown.
The featured speaker at the picnic's opening ceremony this year was Major Gen. Purser, who is a Towanda native.
Purser paid tribute to the veterans in the audience, saying: "You, and those like you, with your blood and sweat, gave me and every American one of the most fundamental rights and freedoms that we enjoy today - the freedom of speech. And more importantly, the freedom to speak without fear of reprisal! We sometimes take that for granted but as you all know, there are many countries out there whose citizens cannot speak freely."
Purser also noted that this year is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War.
"I always like to talk about our Vietnam War vets, as they endured much more than any of us upon their return home," said Purser. "The story of the war in Vietnam is, in large part, the story of the poor treatment of returning service members by an ungrateful citizenry. The most important lesson to be taken from that unhappy time is to value the efforts of our men and women in uniform to protect the American way of life, whether returning from a popular war or an unpopular war. It's a lesson we as a nation have learned in separating the war from the warrior.
"Throughout our brief history, America has supplied the best and bravest war fighters the world has ever known and many of those heroes sit here today," Purser continued.
"Among those that fulfilled their whole obligation, with honor to themselves and credit to their friends, by honest and painstaking discharge of duty at the front, are found right here in Bradford County.
One example is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, Joseph Minnichbach, who was deployed in 1967," Purser said. "Under enemy fire, he and a medic pulled the wounded to safety. Minnichbach was hit by shrapnel and later awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for Valor. After his discharge from active duty, he coached youth baseball and football here in the 1980s and 1990s."
"Another example is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War: Francis Doherty received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in less than a year while fighting in Korea." Purser said.
A third example are the Walker twins, she said.
"Only the United States Army had the power to disconnect the inseparable Walker twins," Purser said. "Calista and Cassandra have been together almost every hour of their 30 years. Even though they deployed together, they were in separate locations for a short while in Iraq, and again in Afghanistan as human intelligence collectors and interrogators.
"To these and the other heroes from Bradford County, I salute you," Purser said. "You represent the character, courage and spirit that resides here. It's because of you that we have the strongest military today that we've ever had.
"And please never forget that we are still at war, as our soldiers still serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and countries around the globe."
Each year, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives issues a resolution, which recognizes the picnic.
Tom Elliott, an organizer of the picnic, estimated that 2,000 or more people attended the picnic this year.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.