Clarion County veterans share stories at annual picnic

Clarion VFW members manned the serving line Saturday at the annual Clarion County veterans picnic. About 400 meals were served to the veterans and their spouses at the Clarion County Park. (By Randy Bartley)

SHIPPENVILLE – Clarion County held its annual veterans picnic Saturday.

Saturday was a day for former comrades to gather, share stories and visit with old friends, and it was also a day for the Clarion community to say thank you to its veterans.

“We usually average 260 to 285 veterans plus family members,” said Judy Zerbe, the county’s director of Veterans Affairs. “Last year we served 483 meals. We put the meals out for bid every year and this year the VFW Auxiliary won the bid,” Zerbe added.

“This is a day for the veterans to feel unencumbered. For some of them it is the only chance they get to see old friends,” Zerbe said.

Robert Colvia, 81, of Shippenville, served as a welder with the U.S. Navy Seabees from 1957 to 1961. He served in Guam and Alaska.

“Today I am seeing people I haven’t seen for a few years,” he said.

“There are volunteer cooks on each grill, registering people, helping vets who need assistance,” said Zerbe. “Commissioner Wayne Brosius does all the emcee work for me and the Civil Air Patrol does all of my parking for me. They also present the colors.”

“This is a good event for the vets,” said Brosius. “They tell stories, they mingle with vets from their own era and other eras. This is a great event for our vets.”

“We are here to support our community and to give back to our veterans,” said community volunteer Alissa Burns, who worked one of the grills with her friend, Josie Stitt.

Civil Air Patrol squadron commander Brian Bogstad said his cadets were on hand to support the events and the community.

“This is a social event. We do not allow any solicitation or any political soliciting. This is an opportunity for veterans to get together for camaraderie. There are groups of them and they make sure they all sit together,” said Zerbe.

Ray Webb of Lamartine is a veteran of the Korean War. He served with a tank unit from 1952 to 1954.

Webb recalled that the tanks were used to clear anti-personnel land mines.

“It was the only way you could get around,” he said. “We had three tanks with a chain flail on the front to clear the way.”

Webb said he always enjoys attending the picnic.

“Not only is the event open to Clarion County vets but also the wives of veterans,” said Zerbe. “We have also invited vets who live outside the county but belong to VFW or Legion posts in the county.”

There were several veterans support organizations present.