A dozen area military veterans were honored during a Sunday afternoon ceremony at Northwest High School in Canal Fulton.
Chester Larson Jr. remembers the Vietnam War like it was yesterday.
The Brewster resident and former U.S. Army first lieutenant was an infantryman during the war. And one day in July 1967 he was leading a group of soldiers on a patrol mission through rough terrain in the country when a loud bang rang out.
A platoon sergeant in proximity to Larson had stepped on a "booby trap" filled with 38-caliber ball bearings. Due to the explosion, the sergeant lost a leg from below the knee, while Larson took a bearing straight in the back.
"Wrong place, wrong time," Larson said in a solemn voice. "Somehow it was yesterday. It stays with you."
Larson was able to regroup with his men following the explosion and return to a safe location without any loss of life.
Larson, 67, was one of a dozen Northeast Ohio veterans in attendance Sunday afternoon for a community service honoring military veterans decorated for their sacrifice on the battlefield. More than 300 people attended a community ceremony titled "Call to Gratitude" at Northwest High School, according to event planner Chell Rossi.
The tribute provided a moment to remember fallen soldiers and highlighted local veterans who received one or more of some of the military's highest honors, such as the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star.
Ceremonies of tribute, along with Veterans Day, brings mixed emotions, said Larson, a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
"There are lots of guys who should be here," he said. "A lot of the time you sit here and think of them."
Overall, Larson served in the Army from 1965 to 1968. When returning home in 1968 he recalled protests opposing the war and harshness toward himself and other troops who fought in Vietnam.
"When I first came back, nobody wanted to talk to a Vietnam vet," Larson said. "Now, people express their appreciation. That makes us feel pretty good."
CANTON VETERAN RECALLS EXPLOSION IN IRAQ
Another veteran honored Sunday was Crystal Sandor, of Canton, who on June 18, 2004, north of Baghdad, Iraq, was transporting supplies in a five-ton truck that ran over and triggered an improvised explosive device.
"Everything went dark. I thought I was dead," said the former Ohio Army National Guard specialist. "I couldn't see or hear anything for a few seconds."
Without sight for a time, Sandor continued driving the truck after the explosion, eventually receiving verbal instruction from a fellow soldier inside the vehicle.
"I kept my foot on the gas and kept moving," she recalled.
Sandor said her nose was broken from the incident, and shrapnel and glass were blown in to her eyes and face. She was later awarded the Purple Heart.
LT. GOVERNOR ADDRESSES VETS & ATTENDEES
Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor was keynote speaker of the Sunday ceremony. She thanked all active duty troops and veterans for their service and sacrifice, and told young people in attendance about the role models in their presence.
"If you want to look up to and emulate someone, we've got some great heroes here today," she said.
Other highlights of the event included patriotic performances by the Northwest High School band and a "Thank You Soldiers" rendition by the Canal Land Girl Scouts. The Lorain High School Junior ROTC conducted a missing man detail.
A mobile museum of military history was available at the high school for people to tour. In addition combat jeeps, tanks and antique artillery were on display for public viewing.
A dozen U.S. military veterans were honored in a Sunday ceremony at Northwest High School. They were:
Guy Atkinson, U.S. Army, of Massillon.
Lawrence Emery, U.S. Marines Corps, of North Canton.
Tom Henning, U.S. Marines Corps, of Perry Township.
Robert H. Jones, U.S. Army, of Perry Township.
Chester Larson Jr., U.S. Army, of Brewster
Daniel Lukac, U.S. Army, of Canal Fulton.
Bill Madden, United States Marine Corps, of Perry Township.
Ronald W. Neldon, U.S. Air Force, of Medina.
Crystal Sandor, Ohio Army National Guard, of Canton.
Richard Stoltz, U.S. Army, of North Canton.
Paul H. Suscinski, U.S. Marine Corps, of Norton.
Forest Thorn, U.S. Army, of Mogadore
U.S. military medals
PURPLE HEART Awarded for being wounded or killed in action.
BRONZE STAR Awarded for acts of heroism, merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
SILVER STAR Awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.