LANCASTER — With Veterans Day closely approaching, communities in Ohio are showing appreciation for those who serve in the Armed Forces and who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Freedom’s Never Free is a celebratory event dedicated to showing appreciation and to help others understand freedom is not free as it sometimes comes with a cost of losing lives.

Freedom’s Never Free event was established in the early 2000s as a way for locals in Lancaster to recognize and give thanks to those who served. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the appreciation celebration gave inclusion to first responders, according to Jeannie Ignash, as they too defend their countrymen and women.

“It started out as a four-day event to honor our veterans,” FNF board member Dianne Boggs told The Perry County Tribune.

Ignash started the event because she felt a need to do so and honor those who sacrificed for their country. Her family has experience participating in the Armed Forces as her father was an Army veteran and was the first recipient of the honor flag at the end of the first celebration. Her father served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He would eventually pass away as a result of the agent orange used in the conflicts. Several of her close family members also served in the Army.

“It just means so much to our veterans,” Ignash stated.

The four-day celebratory event began on Wednesday last week with an escort for the Spirit of America’s Story, which started at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus. Event organizer Ignash as well as other volunteers came to the Columbus veterans museum around 1 p.m. on Wednesday. With a fleet of motorcyclists and Jeep drivers, the Ohio Patriot Guard led the convoy of vehicles to the Fairfield County Fairgrounds in Lancaster.

“It was raining before we left,” Ignash stated.

The Spirit of America’s Story could be seen towards the back of the second building off of Broad Street when driving into the fairgrounds. Volunteer members of the FNF took part in setting up displays showing some of the equipment used in past historic wars. Another display recognized first responders representing law enforcement, firefighters and EMS.

Francie Krawcke from Michigan Avian Experience brought a 13-year-old bald eagle to the celebration which was exciting for many of those who attended. The stoic eagle did not have a name because she “is not a normal pet.”

Freedom’s Never Free (FNF) held its opening ceremony Thursday evening with the ribbon cutting of The Spirit of America’s Story: The Wall. The wall is a traveling, full colored mural showing select scenes from the history of the United States from 1775 to the present. Ignash contacted the providers of the wall a year in advance in order to get it to the fairgrounds on time for the veterans celebration.

There were several guest speakers at the opening ceremony. Mayor of Lancaster David Scheffler gave a few remarks at the opening ceremony. Proclamations were made in recognition of the veteran focussed and celebrated the event that has existed for more than 14 years. The ceremony also had performances from the Remnant Expressive Signing Team and the McClain Cadet Drill Team Corp.

The ending to Thursday’s ceremony concluded with FAIRHOPE Hospice and Palliative Care recognizing members of the audience who served in the military. One by one, the names of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine veterans were read aloud. Those who were recognized were given a pin as well as a certificate from the hospice care provider as some of its members served in the armed forces. Additionally, more members were recognized with flags posted outside the fairground building. Prior to the opening ceremony, members of the community can sponsor a veteran who also resides in the Lancaster community.

“We encourage them to come and post the colors,” Ignash stated.

The veteran celebratory event continued on Friday with the annual United Service Organizations (USO) Dance with Nostalgics Big Band providing the musical entertainment. Due to technical difficulties during Thursday’s opening ceremony, the Remnant Expressive Signing Team gave another performance before the start of the USO dance.

The last day of the veteran celebration concluded on Saturday. During the morning hours, the FNF hosted an active shooter class. In the afternoon, a flag retirement ceremony began as those with tattered and worn flags gave them the proper retirement by burning them. An appreciation celebration and dinner officially wrapped up the four-day event.

“The whole four days is 100 percent free and everyone who works with us at this event is a volunteer,” Ignash emphasized. “It is such an honor and a privilege for us to do what we do just to show them our appreciation.”

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Aleksei Pavloff is a reporter for The Perry County Tribune

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