JACKSON TWP. Community members were invited to the annual Veteran’s Day event at Stark State College on Nov. 12 to honor those who have served and continue to serve the United States through the military. The event is held every year to salute students, faculty, staff and community members who are military veterans or active duty or emergency service personnel.
"We feel that Veteran’s Day is day where it is important for us to recognize and honor our students, faculty and staff who have served and all those men and women from the community who have served," said Stark State President Para M. Jones, PhD. "From the standpoint of education, it’s important to understand the significance of our military and the commitment those enlisted make to defend our freedom and safety. On a personal note, my son served as a Naval lieutenant and was honorably discharged. I have a firsthand understanding of the sacrifice and the worry the family has when a family member is serving."
The event included presenting of colors, singing of the national anthem by the Stark State College Chorale, a featured speaker and lunch. The speaker was Brook Harless, an Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame 2017 inductee.
Harless addressed a packed room and talked about overcoming adversities and challenges by sharing her life story. Harness said she spent most of her childhood homeless and living on the streets. She explained how she would search for food in places such as at drive-thru restaurant windows and cleaning leftover food off of tables inside eateries by acting like she was part of the family who had just eaten at the table.
At age 11, she was living on the streets by herself and got picked up by the police. She was sent to child services. Her aunt and uncle from Ohio came to pick her up and took her to their home.
"For the first six-months that I lived with them, I slept out in the hallway," Harless said. "My uncle would talk about the military often and would say I would be a perfect fit because I was a fighter and I was strong."
She married her first husband when she was 19 years old. He was enlisted in the service and she soon decided to enlist herself.
"It was the first time I ever felt like I belonged somewhere. I felt like I was home when I enlisted in the U.S. Army. I became an administrative assistant. With my writing talents, I also started a small newspaper and wrote news stories," Harless said.
She would eventually become a disabled veteran due to injuries she received in an accident where she was the driver. Harless had to have many surgeries which resulted in her being honorably discharged.
The audience was silent as she related the many other life traumas she experienced after leaving the army. Her story ended with her moving to Stark County where she wanted to help people and veterans in some way. She became active helping at the Serving Area Military SAM Center in Massillon, the Red Cross and other organizations in the area that help veterans.
"I believe that every challenge that has happened to me has a reason behind it. I also believe that we all have a purpose in life," she told the audience.