Michael Stephens, a Vietnam veteran stands next to his own banner. Stephens pointed out that the banner was just across the street from his childhood home. (Photos by Collin Overton)
Michael Stephens, a Vietnam veteran stands next to his own banner. Stephens pointed out that the banner was just across the street from his childhood home. (Photos by Collin Overton)
Jefferson County veterans and their families gathered at Bicentennial Park Saturday morning for an Armed Forces Day ceremony that officially unveiled more than 50 new banners dedicated to their service.

Opening music was played by the Jefferson County Student Ensemble. Members of the American Legion Post 9 Riders and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1969 Riders made their appearance on motorcycles just before the ceremony started.

Larry Jones, chairman of the Jefferson County Veterans Council led the ceremony and introduced guest speakers Damon Welch, mayor of Madison, and David Bramer, Jefferson County Commissioner.

“It’s something that needed to happen,” Bramer said of the banner project. “It’s something that our children and even us need to know — to recognize and thank our veterans.”

The ceremony also honored Maj. Samuel Woodfill, a decorated World War I Medal of Honor recipient from Bryantsburg. His great-great nephew, Robert Woodfill, gave a speech honoring his service and the sacrifice of veterans on the banners.

“Today, take a minute — look at these men,” Woodfill said. “You see the faces of our servicemen and servicewomen who have fought in order that you and your families might be here today. Tell your children who they are and what they mean to you and your family.”

Robert Woodfill is a retired geologist and Purdue University graduate who lives in Vevay. Woodfill has spent much of his time since retirement studying his relative’s life and wrote a biographical book titled “Sam Woodfill’s Guns,” which is available at the Jefferson County Historical Society.

“I came back [to Vevay] about 20 years ago, and I started researching his life,” Woodfill said. “And we’ve accumulated a lot of artifacts that he had — guns, all of the stuff from during the war — and we’ve given them to the historical society, so we’re going to have a big showing of those in August up there.”

Lt. Vinal Lee of the Salvation Army of Madison gave the benediction near the end of the ceremony, followed by a rifle volley by the American Legion Post 9 Honor Guard. Courtney Cox, MCHS alumni and Zoe Ehlers, an MCHS student, played taps before the Jefferson County Student Ensemble closed the ceremony with more music. Attendees filed into line afterward for a complimentary picnic, provided by the City of Madison and other donors.

Some of the veterans in attendance had banners of their own. Robin Danner, a Navy servicewoman who served from 1985 to 1989, said the banner “means everything to me. It really does.”

Michael Stephens, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps from 1967 to 1969, also appreciated the dedication.

“It’s very nice of them to do this,” Stephens said. “There were a lot of people here that didn’t come back from wars and I think they’re forgotten somehow.”