Jerry Adams, the 2023 recipient of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation’s Veteran of the Year award, says he wasn’t concerned about others knowing him as much as telling fellow veterans about three groups that have benefited him.
Adams is a Vietnam veteran from Wellsburg and he recommended the Wheeling Vet Center, which offers no-cost, confidential counseling services in a non-medical setting; the Vietnam Veterans Support Group in Steubenville, which is based at 423 North St.; and the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad, which presents military honors at the funerals of local veterans.
“They are like the Postal Service. Neither snow nor rain nor heat,” said Adams, alluding to the unofficial motto of the government agency.
According to Adams, many of the group’s members are in their 70s and a few in their 80s and would welcome younger veterans to aid them in carrying out their mission.
Adams’ membership in the squad was among details that led to his selection for the honor.
As hostess for the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park’s annual dinner, Janice McFadden, the group’s president, said Adams also has recruited fellow veterans to participate in the Wellsburg Junior Police Academy, where he has served as a platoon leader.
The week-long summer day camp, which was organized by his son, Scott, who is chief Brooke County Sheriff’s Deputy, introduces boys and girls to the functions of the military and emergency first responders and involves them in activities inspired by the West Virginia State Police Academy.
Adams is a lifelong Wellsburg resident and a two-time recipient of the Purple Heart, which is awarded to veterans who were wounded or killed while serving.
Prior to the dinner, he explained that while he was serving in the Army’s 9th Infantry Division at Bearcat Base, a tank was struck by enemy fire, causing shrapnel to fly into his leg.
Adams said it initially felt like a bee sting.
Later Adams’ jaw was injured in a grenade blast that also blew off the ear of another soldier.
He said recovery required doctors to wire much of his mouth shut, and he was forced to cut his food into pieces small enough to pass through a gap between his teeth.
McFadden added that Adams served in the honor guard for military funerals prior to his discharge in 1968.
After returning to Wellsburg, he went on to work at the Beech Bottom Wheeling Steel plant and as a property manager for National Church Residences while raising three sons — Scott, Chris and Dan — with his wife of 54 years, Ruth.
The pair also have several grandchildren.
Adams was presented the Veteran of the Year award by Katy O’Connell, a member of the foundation and the Wellsburg Elks Lodge, which provided the plaque; and a plaque commemorating his service in the Vietnam War made by foundation member Doug Lilly.
Lilly also presented to Adams a cane denoting his military service, carrying on a tradition started by the late John G. Chernenko, a foundation member who was a prisoner of war during World War II.
With the help of Tim Ennis, former state Delegate and Brooke County Commissioner, the foundation carried out another tradition in calling all veterans in attendance forward to be recognized.
McFadden noted many were involved in the development of the Veterans Memorial Park which, located at Brooke Hills Park, pays tribute to the many local serviceman and women who were prisoners of war, declared missing in action or died while serving their country.
Among them was Joan Nicholson, the aunt of Marine Corps Lance Michael J. Smith, who was killed in a skirmish while serving in Iraq in 2004.
Nicholson had suggested a monument honoring all local veterans who lost their lives while serving their country and continued to support the group’s efforts up to her death in October.
A moment of silence was observed for Nicholson.
McFadden announced the group’s Memorial Day service will be held at 1 p.m. May 29 at the Foundery, formerly Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church. The Wallace and Sisinni families will be recognized then for their many members in military service.