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D-Day veteran, Medal of Honor recipient among Ohio Military Hall of Fame inductees

By HOLLY ZACHARIAH | The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio | Published: May 5, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — They stood at the edge of the stage and shared a private moment, the D-Day paratrooper and the modern-war Navy SEAL. They clasped hands as they swapped stories of mutual admiration for acts of heroism that no one ever really wants to perform.

Representing wars both a lifetime and a world apart, 95-year-old Don Jakeway and 38-year-old Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator and Medal of Honor recipient Edward C. Byers Jr. were honored at a Statehouse ceremony in which they and 28 others were inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.

Jakeway, who with the Army's 508th Parachute Infantry was among the first wave of soldiers into Normandy on June 6, 1944, said that when he and Byers spoke before the 90-minute ceremony, it was a special moment. None of the veterans did what they did for fame, he said, but each sacrificed much to earn the right to be on that stage.

"I didn't fight for medals. None of us did," said Jakeway, of Johnstown. "To be here surrounded by so many great men, it's humbling."

The Ohio Military Hall of Fame honors veterans and active-duty military personnel for specific acts of bravery in combat and on the battlefield. The ceremony each year is tear-filled and somber, as other veterans recite in eye-opening detail what acts of valor the inductees performed to earn the right to have the Hall of Fame's medal placed around their neck.

Event emcee Rick Colliver told the crowd that for these soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, war was real.

"These are not Hollywood scripts," Colliver said. "These are real people who fought and gave all kinds of sacrifice for your personal freedom."

Hall of Fame co-founder and former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran Ted Mosure choked up as he read the citations, noting, "For many, this is the first time the family members hear the stories of these acts." He could not keep his emotions in check as he read, for instance, how John McAllister, of Delaware, epitomized the military's creed of "leave no man behind."

As an Army private first class on April 29, 1968, McAllister and his company came under heavy fire near My Tho, Vietnam. After his commanding officer was wounded, McAllister "crawled over 100 meters under heavy fire to pull the officer and his dead radio telephone operator, and two other mortally wounded soldiers, back to a secure position."

Then there were men like John Luft, of Gahanna. It was Jan. 9, 1968, somewhere south of Ben Cat in Vietnam, when then Army Sgt. Luft and his platoon took heavy fire as they tried to reach wounded comrades. Under heavy fire and only 30 feet from the enemy's entrenchment, Luft, hit by an enemy round in one hand, stayed behind and provided cover fire so that team members could evacuate others who had been hit, saving many lives.

Luft and McAllister were recipients of the Bronze Star with valor. The other central Ohioans honored included Westerville resident David Walls, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross; and Conard Conway of Mount Vernon, a Navy veteran of WWII with a Bronze Star with valor.

There was the heroism of northwest Ohio native Byers, of course, who was awarded the nation's highest military honor in 2016 by President Barack Obama. He was a part of the Navy SEAL team that rescued an American hostage in Afghanistan in 2012. Byers' military citation noted "superior gallantry, extraordinary heroism at grave personal risk, dedication to his teammates, and calm tactical leadership while liberating Dr. Dilip Joseph from captivity."

The crowd gave each honoree a standing ovation, but the awe and appreciation for both Byers and Jakeway was especially evident in the roar of applause.

As Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, put the Hall of Fame medal around Jakeway's neck and Mosure recited how the anti-aircraft and machine-gun fire raged around Jakeway on his parachute drop, his granddaughter sat in the front row and sobbed.

"I'd never really heard that read out loud before," 21-year-old Tanner Jakeway said of her grandfather's story, unable to stop her tears even after the ceremony ended. But it wasn't just her grandpa, a Bronze Star with valor recipient, she cried for. It was for all the others, too. For the wives and widows there to accept for their war-hero husbands who could not, for the veterans on stage who brushed away their own tears, for the wounded warriors in the audience who saluted with such pride.

"All of them," she said with a wave of her hand toward the stage and the crowd. "The bravery and love is overwhelming."

hzachariah@dispatch.com

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward C. Byers Jr., seen here at the White House after receiving the Medal of Honor in 2016, is one of the newest inductees into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.
MEREDITH TIBBETTS/STARS AND STRIPES

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