Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Image Credit: Teri Stein

Veterans were honored at the City of Dover Veterans Monument dedication held Nov. 19 on the square of Dover. The new monument was made possible by donations from organizations, businesses and the public to honor past, current and future military personnel.

There are eight insignias on the monument for the United States Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, POW-MIA, Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and Space Force. The monument features a collage of images of the U.S. flag, the Constitution and a bald eagle. It reads, “Dedicated to those who answered our nation's call in the pursuit of freedom.”

Retired Col. Rex Ray, a former Dover High School graduate, was the guest speaker. He thanked the crowd for joining him in honoring veterans for their service and defense of the nation and spoke of his 30-year service to the country in the Air Force, where he had the opportunity to meet members of the Women Air Force Service Pilots, members of the Tuskegee Airman and even a colonel who survived the Bataan Death March.

Ray then told the story of another person he met during his career.

“One of the highlights of my career was presenting the Silver Star Medal to a World War II vet — his name, Master Sgt. Clifford E. Hotchkiss. At the very beginning of World War II on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hotchkiss was a member of a small garrison of Americans at Wake Island that held the Japanese off as they intended to do a land assault,” Ray said.

The Japanese bombing continued on a daily basis. After the initial bombing, Hotchkiss and his crew kept the lines of communication open for 15 days by moving the radio transmitter and receiver by hand to different locations away from enemy fire.

“He told us at the ceremony, and I'm quoting him, ‘It's a good thing we got it away from the airfield and into the brush because minutes later they turned the communications truck into a heap of molten metal. The only thing I could think about was where can I hide,’” Ray said.

Hotchkiss hid from the Japanese in an underground ammunition storage area, where he served as the focal point for all transmissions in and out during the fight. He was eventually captured two days before Christmas in 1941 and taken to Japan as a prisoner of war.

“There he worked for a ship yard. And he took parts from the ship yard and built a radio so he could communicate with anyone he could contact with American forces,” Ray said.

Hotchkiss’ activities were found out, and he was beaten severely and tortured. He was to be executed, but a local Japanese person came to his defense and got him pardoned. When the war ended, Hotchkiss came home in September 1945, having spent mostly all of the four years of the war as a prisoner of war.

“His is one of many stories of ordinary people achieving extraordinary results in the service of our nation,” Ray said. “I encourage all of us to show our appreciation to veterans every day. You can identify us by our caps, our shirts, our jackets and lapel pins. It does lift my spirits when I get a smile and a thank you for your service.”

The members of the veterans monument committee are co-chairs councilman Greg Bair and councilman Kevin Korns, interim Mayor Shane Gunnoe, Service Director Dave Douglas, Superintendent Scott Harmon, Pat Antonelli, and Ray Ulrich.

Members of the committee said they never had to ask anyone for donations. As soon as the project was announced in the local media, the donations started to come in. The suggestion for the memorial came from a citizen of Dover.

In addition to many individuals, the committee also thanked the Vietnam Veterans of America, Dover Post #3463 VFW Auxiliary, Dover VFW, Gor-Con Construction, O’Donnell Family Charitable Foundation, Metal Masters Inc., the Reeves Foundation and the Freeport Press for their donations.

“Dover is grateful to be able to honor all of our veterans from our community who have given so much in service to this great country,” Gunnoe said. “I hope today's dedication and monument will serve to honor all of our Dover veterans, and while we cannot thank each of you enough for your service, it is our hope that this will serve as a display of Dover's enduring gratitude to our community’s veterans.”

American Legion Post #205 performed the presentation of colors and a 21-gun salute during the program. Mark Bair played taps with Micah Carrick providing the echo. Pastor John Wallace of Dover First Moravian gave the invocation and benediction. Also speaking were Debbie Cook, Tuscarawas County Veterans Services director, Kevin Korns and Greg Bair.

Music was provided by the Ars Nova Singers of Dover High School, which deviated from the program to sing "The Armed Forces Medley." Veterans stood to much applause when they heard the group sing the theme song of their branch of the service.

The committee collected more than $63,000 for the monument, which totaled about $25,000. The extra funds were used to add more landscaping, benches and a flagpole, making the area a tribute to Dover veterans.

“It’s just amazing the people who gave to this,” Bair said. “Thanks to everyone, and we love our veterans.”