For those who serve

Military honored during event at Juniata County Fair

PORT ROYAL – No veteran went unappreciated Thursday evening at the Juniata County Fair.

The Juniata County Agricultural Society held its first ever Military Appreciation Night in the livestock barn. Slated originally to take place at the grandstand with a war helicopter visit and war planes flying overhead, stormy weather late in the afternoon resulted in a change of venue and a restriction on air travel.

Former WHTM Channel 27 weather man and Lewistown native Chuck Rhodes served as Master of Ceremonies. Rhodes served in the United States Navy 1966-1970.

The event was organized by JCAS board member and veteran Clarence Allen who served in the United States Army, 1973-1987.

Special speaker for the evening was Juniata County native General Ronald Fogleman of the United States Air Force, 1963-1997.

Allen said the event was planned to fill a gap in the fair calendar and to recognize the 100th anniversary to the conclusion of World War I.

Fogleman gave a historic account of the Juniata Valley’s commitment to military service. He referenced books written by Juniata County historian and author Wayne Taylor, and shared tidbits on how men and women from Mifflin, Juniata and Perry Counties had been committed in some form to every war effort since the colonial times.

He also shared how the Juniata County Fairgrounds had an impact on his future career in the Air Force.

“The first time I flew in an airplane was in 1946 at the Juniata County Fair,” Fogleman said, noting during that time it was not uncommon to “pay a few bucks” to go up in a Piper J-3 Cub. His great-grandfather, Charles Staufffer, took Fogleman, a young child, up in the plane and let him sit on his lap.

While Fogleman shared a wealth of history about the various wars and the local people’s involvement, he saved the information of World War I for last.

While the casualties locally were not as high as in the next war, World War I took the lives of six Juniata Countians, 35 soldiers from Mifflin County and 12 more from Perry County.

A common cause of death came to many soldiers later in the form of sickness from warfare chemicals that were introduced in World War I.

Fogleman said he recalled his grandmother, Martha Fogleman, telling him how her brother was impacted by the gases after returning home.

While World War I was known as the “war to end all wars,” it simply was not true. Fogelman cited World War II took millions of lives, including 179 in the Juniata Valley. Twenty-eight men were lost in the three county region during the Korean War. And the Valley lost 24 soldiers in Vietnam.

Steve Ferrante, spoke about the banners flying at the fairgrounds with the images of 70 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice from our area. Allen initially asked for Ferrante’s involvement, who admitted he was not completely committed at first. Soon, however, Ferrante’s research into the details of these men’s service to our country drew him into the process in a way he didn’t expect.

“I found myself wanting to know more about these men,” Ferrante said, noting many were Vietnam soldiers like him. Many had enlisted at age 19 – also like him.

The 70 were recognized because they had died in war, were missing in action, or died from the effects of war.

“And many are buried on foreign soil,” Ferrante said.

Ferrante said he has learned that ancient Egyptians had believed “you never died if you say their name.”

“When you walk these fairgrounds and you see the banners, say their name. If you’re a veteran, give them a salute,” Ferrante said.

Veterans in the audience were also honored at the appreciation. The band Country Thunder played each of the military branches’ theme songs as veterans stood up when his or her branch song was heard. Some applauded and cheered for their branch while others stood soberly as if still in uniform.

Pins were given to eligible Vietnam veterans after the program and special banners were awarded to event participants including Fogelman and Rhodes.

Ferrante left the audience with four names to remember. These names were of men from the area who gave the ultimate sacrifice by age 21: Jerome C. Bender, World War I, died at age 20; John Reynolds, World War II, died at age 20; James Gearhart, Korean War, died at age 21; and Walter Goshorn, Vietnam War, died at age 20.