Between the Lines By David Lias Clay County Veterans Service Officer Dave Wherry took a chance earlier this year. He had an idea that might work, and then again, might fall flat on its face.
He decided to follow through with his plans. He asked veterans, and the relatives of veterans, to bring photos of themselves or loved ones who served or are serving in the U.S. military to hang in his office in the Clay County Courthouse.
The response to his call for photographs has been overwhelming.
Wherry's office is being transformed into a showcase, honoring Clay County's veterans.
He hasn't run out of wall space yet. But row after row of framed photos are beginning to take up most of the room he has available.
Once his lobby's walls are full, Wherry has received permission to begin hanging the photos in the courthouse hallway near his office.
A few of the youngest service people featured on Wherry's walls graduated from Vermillion High School just a few years ago, and still are actively in service.
Veterans from a vast range of the United States' military conflicts are represented: Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I, and even the Civil War.
Some of these men and women served during the bloodiest periods of our nation's history.
They risked life and limb as they flew on bombing missions, patrolled the oceans on battleships and in submarines, and avoided enemy fire in every kind of climate imaginable: sultry jungles, baking deserts and harsh winters.
Many of the veterans pictured served during fortunate times like today when our nation isn't plagued by war. That doesn't lessen the importance of their tour of duty, however.
They helped keep the peace, globally, by contributing their services to a strong national defense.
Wherry has carefully documented each photograph. Printed on a label under each framed picture is the veteran's name, rank, and military era of service.
Wherry may have simply been looking for a unique way to honor Clay County veterans when he came up with the photo display idea. He never knew it would be such a success.
Other revelations have come to those who stop by his office to view the photos.
Men, women and children who study the pictures soon realize that Clay County veterans retain a strong desire to serve their country, even after they are honorably discharged and they hang up their uniforms for the last time.
Wherry served in Vietnam, as did Leo Powell, who just ended his service on the Vermillion City Council, and who toiled many hours last summer to help make the Clay County Veterans Memorial a reality.
William Radigan's photo is part of the display. After serving as a waist gunner on bomber planes during World War II, he returned to his hometown of Vermillion, raised a large family with his wife, Sue, and eventually served his fellow citizens as a lobbyist for the VFW, a volunteer fireman, a city alderman, and mayor of Vermillion until his death in March.
One can also find pictures of Jerry Sommervold, Ralph Westergaard, Paul Hasse and Bill Willroth Sr. Until Hasse decided not to run for re-election last year, the four men served together on the Clay County Commission.
A photo of a young Louie Fostvedt is part of the display. Today, Fostvedt is retired but still active. In recent years, he helped oversee a volunteer project of the remodeling of a Vermillion family's home to make it handicapped-accessible. He's also traveled to jungle regions to build medical clinics and other buildings.
One can find images of dozens of other men and women who have contributed or still are making a difference in Clay County and the Vermillion community, including Lloyd Moses, Andy Howe, Raymond Hall, Ray Hofman, Nate Hurowitz, Fred Savoie and Fern and Warren Morse.
Memorial Day naturally is a time to remember those who loved their fellow citizens and their nation more than themselves. They made the ultimate sacrifice. They gave their lives, simply to insure all of the precious freedoms that we enjoy today.
Wherry's tribute to local veterans is a fitting reminder that many of the people who helped defend the nation returned from their tours of duty to help make South Dakota, Clay County and Vermillion great places to live, work and raise a family today.
When we gather Monday to honor our war dead, our veterans who have returned from war but since died, and those who are still serving in uniform, it will be fitting to take a moment to remember those still among us who also served.