WHEELING - A stirring tribute to veterans Friday that culminated with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin carrying a torch in their honor kicked off Ogden 20K Classic Run and Walk events.
The Ogden 20K Torch Relay marked the start of the 33rd annual race weekend with Manchin and a slew of Wheeling and Ohio County officials carrying the torch in a march from Elm Grove to the race's start/finish line at 14th and Chapline streets. There, a large, cheering crowd greeted the governor and veterans representing those who served in each U.S. war dating back to World War II.
Manchin thanked those who served and those who waited at the start/finish line to honor those veterans. He told them West Virginia is the most patriotic of the states - the state that does the "heavy lifting" for the nation with its steel and coal industries.
(Photo by Scott McCloskey)
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin receives the torch from U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Robert Sigler of Moundsville during the Ogden 20K Torch Relay Friday evening in front of the Federal Building in Wheeling.
Veterans and their families walked and jogged along with Wheeling Police Chief Kevin Gessler, Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart, Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler, Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie and City Manager Robert Herron.
Groups of Wheeling residents gathered along the Torch Relay route to wave flags and greet the governor and the city and county officials. Those who passed the procession in vehicles blew their horns in a show of support.
Veterans honored in the Ogden 20K Torch Relay were represented in four categories: "Gulf War-Era Veterans," those who served from 1991 to the present day; "Vietnam-Era Veterans," those who served from 1960-1990; "Korean War-Era Veterans," those who served 1950-1959; and the "WWII-Era Veterans," who were represented by those who served prior to 1950.
Veteran heroes of each era carried the torch in the event. Lt. Col. Paul Hicks led the Gulf War-Era Veterans while Commander Bob Kota fronted the Vietnam-Era veterans. Tech? Sgt. Jim Koonce headed the Korean War-Era Veterans, and the WWII-Era Veterans were fronted by Gunnery Sgt. Dale Sigler.
Sigler served in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He commended race Director Robert "Scat" Scatterday for his efforts in organizing the race and race events. Sigler said he enjoys walking with the other soldiers who served.
"It's the best day of the year," Sigler said. "It's great to get together" with the other veterans.
State Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, walked the last several legs of the Torch Relay with the veterans. He said he was impressed by the camaraderie among the generations of those who served. Yost called the Torch Relay an "awesome" event.
Manchin ran at least a short distance with every torch bearer in the relay. He thanked Ogden Newspapers for putting on the race and including a tribute to veterans. Manchin discussed how important the Torch Relay is to him.
"I've done this every year I've been governor," Manchin said. "It's a wonderful event. This is what Memorial Day is all about."
The main 20K Run and Walk, as well as the 5K Run and Walk, get under way today with late registration beginning at 6 a.m. The various races begin at 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., with a free concert to follow. The race-related events conclude with a luncheon at 11:30 a.m.