Saturday's festivities at the Italian Heritage Festival kicked off with a moving ceremony to honor veterans and active duty members of the United States military. In fact, a proclamation by Mayor Andy McKenzie declared Saturday as Veteran's Appreciation Day at the Italian Festival and in the City of Wheeling.
Saturday's Keynote speaker, Major Julie Shively, is a graduate of the Air Force Academy. She piloted many overseas missions to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She also has 15 years of education experience, and just finished her first year as the Principal of Wheeling Central Catholic high school.
A solemn ceremony honored those lost in battle. "The Empty Chair" symbolizes all of our fallen heros.
A wreath was placed in the Ohio River to honor the memory of those who lost their lives on the water in service to our country. Organizer John Nanny says it's his duty to recognize the profound sacrifices of our military men and women.
"I understand the commitment members of our military have made to our nation," he says."I understand the sacrifices that so many of them had made. If I didn't take part in activities like this I would feel like I was letting them down. Had they lived they would be here doing the same thing."
The heritage port area was also filled with civilians who know the importance of saying thanks. Master of Ceremonies, John Looney, says the people of the Ohio Valley have always been loyal to their veterans.
"This is a strong veteran's community," he says. "The people of the Upper Ohio Valley have contributed their services to the military since the very beginning. Since the revolutionary war. Its just been a tradition that families serve their country."