Honoring local heroes on Veterans Day


It has been 95 years since the first Veterans Day was celebrated. Most people know the story of Veterans Day as it was originally celebrated just for veterans of the First World War. After World War II it became a day for men who served in any U.S. military conflict, including Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Grenada and the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans Day was put into effect on Nov. 11, 1918, and was originally known as Armistice Day, the day World War I officially ended. It was celebrated on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.

Since then, Veterans Day has honored many men and women, including presidents, fathers and mothers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles and aunts. We love our veterans because America has always been a patriotic nation. We take Veterans Day to commemorate those who fought throughout our history. One local veteran with a compelling story is Donald Cunningham. Don served in the Army during the Korean conflict. He was captured by the North Koreans, and was sentenced to a POW camp, where he was beaten and tortured by the Koreans. The enemy kept him in a box for three days without food or water. As a result he had back problems and remained hunched over the rest of his life.

I have the privilege of being related to this hero and to have served as a pallbearer at his funeral when he died at his home in Stratton, Ohio, in 2007. Thank you, Don.

Franciscan University of Steubenville history professor Robert C. Doyle, another veteran, served in the Navy during the Vietnam conflict.

As a student of Doyle, I enjoy being entertained by his many fascinating stories of days on the sea. He describes his travels and war adventures to his classes at the University. His stories remind me of a character from the movie The Shawshank Redemption; Doyle is like Morgan Freeman’s character “Red.” I am blessed to be under his wing as a history student and I appreciate everything he does and has done, not just for me but for his country. Thanks, Doc.

The grandfather of my best friend, William “Bill” Reed, served in the Navy during the post-World War II period and is still alive today to tell his story. He served all over the Pacific in places like Guam, Wake Island, China and all the islands in between Hawaii and Japan. He served during peacetime, which is just as important as fighting in the big battles. He served in the Navy so that, like any other male at the time, he could receive his G.I. Bill and go to school. After his duty in the Pacific, Reed attended Ohio State University to study Industrial Engineering. After his studies there he applied for a job at Weirton Steel where he remained for 40 years. Thanks, Bill.

I would like to conclude by personally thanking my Dede (pronounced “Diddy,” grandfather in Slovak) Paul Zdinak, and all my family and friends who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada and Desert Storm. May God bless you for the sacrifices you made for your country and fellow men. Sleep in peace soldier, you earned your rest.

Check the local news for services and memorials for Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2013.

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