MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) – “Veterans Voices” is all about preserving the stories of the Ohio Valley’s veterans, but it turns out there’s been a duo devoted to that mission long before WTRF. 

Two authors started a series of books called Marshall County Patriots and Heroes several years ago. Twelve volumes and hundreds of pages of stories later, Gary Rider and Roseanna Dakan Keller are taking a little break to reflect on what they’ve done. 

If you’re liberating a concentration camp, if you’re at the last battle of WWII in Europe, if you’re in Okinawa, if you’re there at the signing of the surrender for Japan someone from Marshall County was there.

Gary Rider, Author

Rider was a teacher at John Marshall High school. During one of his classes, he tasked his students with writing the stories of the veterans they knew. 

The class collected more than 100 stories, including an interview with the last World War I veteran alive in Marshall County. Then Gary retired. While at home, he had a thought.

Why not take those and put them into a book? That was volume number one, which was the kids’ work of 135 stories that they had collected.

Gary Rider, Author

Just like that, Marshall County Patriots and Heroes was published and the 12-volumes long journey began. 

Roseanna Dakan Keller joined on as an author in volume two. She was also recently retired, saw a call for veterans stories in the newspaper, and asked Gary if she could write about her father’s service.

I said ‘is one the limit?’ and he said ‘there is no limit you can do as many as you want’.

Roseanna Dakan Keller, Author

So, Keller wrote the stories of her husband and other family members too. Eventually, she became an integral part of the volumes. 

When we have our book signings the men come in and they get their books and you see them sitting there holding their book to their chest, then I know I’m doing something meaningful. 

Roseanna Dakan Keller, Author

From the American Revolution to the modern-day conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rider and Keller have spoken to men and women of every branch, from every war, with every job imaginable. 

It’s not just veterans, but also Navy Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVEs) members of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), nurses, and even some Rosie the Riveters. The authors feel that even if a veteran or military personnel never saw combat, their service still has a story worth remembering.

They’ve even interviewed a few veterans from surrounding counties.

The stories are written exactly as the veteran tells them.

Rider and Keller said they find veterans through word of mouth or even by attending veteran’s events. If a veteran agrees to be interviewed, they try and meet in an environment that’s comfortable for the veteran. Then, they let them talk. However, they will never force anyone into an interview.

The whole tapestry of the man is captured in the story. From his birth, childhood through the military, what he did in his life through the end. Honoring those he served with.

Roseanna Dakan Keller, Author

There are people in this county that I would love to have their stories, but I can’t get them. One, they won’t tell them. Two, the family says they become so upset that they have more flashbacks, so we leave them alone.

Gary Rider, Author

While some are reluctant to share, others feel a burden lifted by finding memories long hidden away. 

I had one man say to me ‘you’re trying to make me remember something from 50 years ago that I’ve spent the last 50 years trying to forget’.

Roseanna Dakan Keller, Author

It takes a lot of emotion for them to tell it and it takes a lot in you to absorb it and give them the story they deserve.

These men are hard men. This is something they don’t do adn when they tell the story they become very emotional adn you have to be able to look at them in the eye, listen to it, absorb it and take it home later and deal with your emotions.

Gary Rider, Author

Because of that, Rider said it takes about a year to publish each volume of Marshall County Patriots and Heroes.

However, they do much more for the veterans than just writing down memories. Rider explained they have also gotten veterans medals they earned but lost or never received. He’s even made sure one veteran got a long-awaited high school diploma.

Keller also writes “Living Legacy” for Valley Hospice, and recalls the day she got a call from a man who said he “had a hole in his soul”. He was in hospice, and Keller points to his story as an example of why listening to our veteran’s matters.

She said the man was a Korean War veteran whose job it was to call in the coordinates and bomb villages. Keller describes his story as bitter and angry. So, she wrote it that way. As she says, she was “just his scribe” and takes great pride in writing the stories exactly as the veteran tells them.

I read each paragraph to him so he could hear in his own tone what he had said with that story. He laid in the bed and he went ‘yes, yes’. He felt he had been validated. He died two days after he told me his story. We did publish that story and it remains the most dark, cynical story that I’ve written, but it was his story.

Roseanna Dakan Keller, Author

Both Gary and Roseanna said this project has given them a greater understanding of our area’s veterans.

There are still stories yet to be told, and that’s what keeps them coming back to do more.

I would do it all over again in a heartbeat because these people are just amazing people. What they have been through, what they have done, and what they have survived and are able to go on with their lives.

Gary Rider, Author

They served their country and they came back home and most of them kept serving their community and they are patriots and heroes. They are exceptional. I fell these men and women represent the best of America.

Roseanna Dakan Keller, Author

Rider and Keller are taking a little break right now, but say stay tuned for another volume of Marshall County Patriots and Heroes.

They’ve also written additional books, like “Vietnam: Forever My Shadow” which tells the story of Edward “Ed” Hoskins who was a Green Beret. 

You’ll find all their books for purchase at the Moundsville Pharmacy, or at Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library to check out and read.