Their chairs are empty: Star City gathers for Memorial Day ceremony

STAR CITY — The wind whipped along the banks of the Monongahela River Monday morning, but the rain held back as dozens of spectators gathered at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park for the town of Star City’s annual Memorial Day ceremony. 

The crowd gathered under and around a temporary shelter erected by the town. Nearly every seat was filled, save a string of four or five empty chairs in the front row.  

A poignant, if entirely unintentional, visual given the solemn nature of occasion. 

“Their chairs remain empty today,” Army Veteran Nicole Gerard said. 

Gerard, Director of Operation Welcome Home, served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan during her 12-year military career.  

“For some of us, this day carries a far deeper weight. A weight etched in the memory of faces, the laughter of friends and echo of gunshots still ringing in our ears,” she said. “We’ve seen firsthand the cost of these freedoms. I’ve lost friends — more than friends, my brothers and sisters in arms. Today, they won’t be toasting or sharing a barbeque with their families.” 

As he has for years, Al Anderson helped open the ceremony with the “Star Spangled Banner,” and later led the crowd in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “America the Beautiful.” 

He also offered remarks recalling his entry into the United States Army in 1954 at 17 years old  

Anderson spoke with pride about the efforts underway to construct a veterans’ memorial in Osage. 

“We’ve already got it funded. We’re going to have a memorial, a veterans’ memorial, right there in Osage next to the museum … Many of the veterans from Scotts Run, many of them, are not recognized on anything right now. We’re going to make sure there will be that monument for them,” he said, explaining he’s also pushing for additional services for those who served. 

“I’ve always tried to lend my voice. Since God gave me these vocal cords for 65 years, I mean how blessed could I be?” 

As the final speaker of the day, Morgantown businessman Glenn Adrian said he was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Romney, W.Va. — but grew up in the U.S. Navy. 

Due to circumstances beyond his control, he spent his enlistment working primarily in communications. 

“I never was in a foxhole. I never had to carry a gun when I was in the military,” he said.  

Because of that, he continued, he’s struggled at times accepting recognition for his service. 

“I was always hesitant because I didn’t have to go to war,” he said. “When I went in, that was right on the heels of the Vietnam War. Even though we were a small town, probably 1,000 people, we were impacted by Vietnam. Those young men that I knew who were ahead of me in school and went off to Vietnam, several of them came back in caskets. Those are things in a small town you never forget … but I’ll tell you it gave me a deeper appreciation to this day for those who did serve and die for this country.”    

The ceremony was led by former Star City mayor and council member Bob Musick and included remarks from current Mayor Sharon Doyle. 

Colors were presented by Marine Corps League Earl Anderson Detachment 342. The invocation was given by Father John McDonough of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Westover VFW Post 9916 conducted a 21 Gun Salute and “Taps” was performed by Sean Sawyer.