Kettering parade chair hopes patriotic pride can heal wounds

The chairman for the Kettering Holiday at Home Parade hopes to have dozens of veterans in the event in hopes it will spark patriotism and help heal some divisions among people.

One of those veterans who will be in the Labor Day parade is Delbert Sharrett, 96, who survived Pearl Harbor and served his country with honor.

Ed Koehnen, parade chair, said with all of the rancor going on in the country, it was a good time to have more veterans take part in the parade. He met with at least 80 veterans recently, seeking their participation to help increase a sense of love of country and of each other, he said.

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After a three-month stretch that has included a Ku Klux Klan rally, devastating tornadoes and, now, a mass shooting, Sharrett and others who have served their country with honor seemed to be the perfect choice to be showcased in this year’s parade, Koehnen said.

“I personally am making sure that we honor our veterans as parade chair,” he said. “We will have the Wright-Patt Color Guard co-lead the parade with the Kettering police Honor Guard, and we will sing national anthem before the parade starts.”

‘Best country in the world’

Sharrett is willing to do his part at the parade, just as he did more than 75 years ago, when enlisted in the Navy.

After serving a few weeks in Michigan, he was shipped to Pearl Harbor on Dec. 2, 1941, five days before the attack. He was aboard the USS Sea Gull, about 80 miles from Pearl Harbor when the world changed forever as more than 2,400 Americans were killed, jump starting World War II.

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Sitting comfortable in a chair with his yellow shirt and blue slacks, and sporting a Pearl Harbor baseball hat, Sharrett last week held court in the Germantown Veterans Museum, where thousands of artifacts relating to 1,500 veterans from all American wars are housed in the two-story building, an old cigar factory bought by the free Masons in 1954. It was purchased in September 2009 for the nonprofit museum.

Sharrett said veterans have fought valiantly to protect the freedoms of this country and that it is always important to try to teach people “to protect the life, love and liberty that we have in this country. This is the best country in the world. I’ve appreciated every minute that I’ve lived in this country.”

Following the news of the mass shooting in Dayton a week ago, Sharrett said it is too easy for civilians to get a weapon like that in the United States.

“That’s a big problem that we face,” he said. “But we need to try to get back to the idea of having love for your neighbor and even your worst enemy - and that is the hardest thing you’ll have to do dear Lord.”

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Sharrett and his wife, Lillie Mae, were married for 65 years until she died in 2010. They have three children: two daughters, Jane and Phyllis and one son, Clyde.

David Shortt, the curator of the Veterans Memorial Museum, said that Sharrett still has plenty of energy left and a great memory. He shows off the wings of the museum, which cover the area of American Armed Forces Veterans Service from the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism.

Short said it is important for the country to heal from its fractured state and maybe studying the how the women and men in this country have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom could help make that happen.

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