Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ottawa woman to lay wreath at DC Memorial Day ceremony

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 5/23/2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The forecast calls for sunny skies and 85 degrees Monday in Washington, but Sherry Wright-Anderson will be basking in a different glow as she walks through the hallowed rows of Arlington National Cemetery.

The Ottawa woman and longtime champion of veterans has been selected to lay a Memorial Day wreath in honor of U.S. veterans Monday at Arlington Cemetery, the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America announced Friday in a news release.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The forecast calls for sunny skies and 85 degrees Monday in Washington, but Sherry Wright-Anderson will be basking in a different glow as she walks through the hallowed rows of Arlington National Cemetery.

The Ottawa woman and longtime champion of veterans has been selected to lay a Memorial Day wreath in honor of U.S. veterans Monday at Arlington Cemetery, the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America announced Friday in a news release.

Wright-Anderson was honored to be chosen, she said Friday from her hotel in Washington, where she had just arrived after the cross-country trek to participate in the time-honored Memorial Day ceremony.

“I was excited and honored due to the fact all veterans mean so much to me,” Wright-Anderson said. “I’ve had several family serve and still serving.”

Wright-Anderson was instrumental in establishing the Franklin County War Memorial on the Franklin County Courthouse lawn in downtown Ottawa, and for the past 20 years she has served as director of the community’s annual Veterans Day parade, stepping down from that role last fall.

In a December letter to The Herald, Wright-Anderson described her experiences with the community parade and celebration on Veterans Day.

“It was a time for our community to heal and remember our veterans, those who gave their lives and those who have and still are serving,” she said, noting the community had lost 205 servicemen who gave their lives for their country. “I will always advocate for veterans and their families and do my best to make sure our future generations know freedom is not free.”

While Memorial Day often marks a time some remember deceased loved ones, the day should serve as a special reminder for all U.S. citizens to recognize veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, Wright-Anderson, who has lost four family members during wartime, said.

Wright-Anderson’s father, Marshall Milford Ball, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Ball lost two of his brothers — Aubry Ball was killed in action in the Philippines, and Roy Normal Ball’s plane exploded over Norway, Wright-Anderson said of her uncle’s deaths.

“They went and got my Dad,” Wright-Anderson said of the Army Air Corp’s decision to send Marshall Ball home from the Pacific Theater after his two brothers were killed in a situation that calls to mind the popular Steven Spielberg “Saving Private Ryan” World War II movie. The family’s story did not have a Hollywood ending.

Delbert Dwayne Ball, Wright-Anderson’s third uncle to die in wartime — was killed in action in Korea, she said.

“I’m not sure how my grandmother Elva dealt with [losing sons in wartime],” Wright-Anderson said. “She was suffering from polio and dealing with all that medical stuff too at the time. She was tough.”

John and Elva Ball were farmers in the Rantoul community and the Ball brothers are among those honored on the Franklin County War Memorial.

Another name found on the memorial is that of Ottawa Marine Gary Hendrickson, who was killed in Vietnam, Wright-Anderson said of her cousin.

Three of her grandsons currently serve in the U.S. Marines — Capt. Buck Bradley, Sgt. Levi Bradley and recruit Dakota Schmoe, she said.

Wright-Anderson is national regional director of Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America and has been a longtime member of VVA Chapter 912 of Ottawa, the organization’s news release said. The organization is comprised of veterans, their families and community members who work with 600 VVA chapters across the country with a mission of addressing issues affecting veterans and their families, the release said.

Wright-Anderson wished her father still was alive to see the World War II and Korea war memorials in Washington, she said. She will be making her second trip to Arlington Cemetery — her first as wreath-bearer.

“The first time [at Arlington] I was really sick with cancer, but I did get to watch the changing of the guard. It is awesome, so I’m looking forward to seeing that again,” Wright-Anderson, who will be in better health this time around, said. “To do the wreath is an unbelievable honor.”

Wright-Anderson reflected on what her father and uncles might say if they were there to witness her participation in Monday’s ceremony.

“I’m sure they would be very proud that someone is carrying on the compassion and respect for our military,” Wright-Anderson said. “I am certain of that.”

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