2017     2016     2015     2014     2013     2012    

   Every year, Open Arms*****Always holds a Veteran Appreciation Dinner to thank a local Vet for their service.


Dinner 2017

   For 2017, we welcome and saluted a dedicated supporter of OAA, Chaplin Bill Graybill. Master of Ceremonies USMC Col. Danny Bubp saluted the Chaplin, with a great ROT|C history lesson from our own Sgt. Major Otis Kokensparger. We witnessed the meaningful Fallen Soldier's Table, and were moved by stories of greatness. (Click the picture to see the video!) SALUTE!

Dinner 2016

   For over a decade, anyone who has gone to the Thursday night Veterans Program at the Brown County Fair has heard a gentleman recite military history without a note or hesitation. He spoke of wars long ago and present. He made you proud to be an American. He is our OAA 2016 Veteran Honoree, Mr. Rick Rhoades! (Click the picture to see the video!)

  A Mr. Rhoades's father was a huge influence in his life, a man who served in the military, and upon his return was deeply involved in veterans' issues. He established the VFW Post in Loveland, and took his son, Rick, with him to every meeting. It made a big impression on him, and he went on to honor his Dad’s dedication.

  Rick served as a United States Navy First Class Petty Officer, and as a UDT for US Navy SEALS.

  Upon Rick Rhoades's discharge from the Navy, he followed his father's example and began to work to improve lives of all veterans. He also immersed himself in military history. Anyone who has attended the Brown County Fair on Veterans Night has been fortunate to hear him speak of the honor and bravery of the United States Military for over the past ten years.

  This dinner’s Master of Ceremony, USMC Col. Danny Bubp (ret.) pointed out, "If there is any veterans event or issue happening, you will find Rick Rhoades there working tirelessly." Rick is a very humble man who always praises others and promotes any veteran cause, never looking for anything from anyone for himself. His reverence for all veterans and active duty troops is an example of an excellent role model for our youth.

  We were extremely honored to have the opportunity to thank him for his continued work for all veterans. Open Arms Always gives him a hearty salute!

Dinner 2015

  Sgt. Cliff Riley (Ret.) was elected the Open Arms Always Veteran of the Year in 2015. He has a respected career as a soldier, but even more, has an outstanding history of working to support and assist returning vets and their families. (Click the picture to see the video!)

  After graduating from high school in 1966, Cliff joined the U.S. Army for three years. After two combat tours in Vietnam he was Honorably Discharged as a Sgt. E-5 in June 1969. Coming home to a divided country, he found that Congress was quietly reducing benefits already earned by Veterans. Still fueled by the intense anger of 7 local friends killed in Vietnam, he dedicated the rest of his life to helping those that could not speak for themselves. He also wanted the families of each of the 39 Clermont County soldiers that died in Vietnam to know that the sacrifice of their "baby-child” would never be forgotten.

  A successful self-employed businessman with many leadership awards, Cliff spent the next 44 years organizing and mentoring veterans, and educating them about benefits due them and their families from the federal, state and county governments, as most veterans, widows, or widowers of veterans don't know where to go for help.

  He soon learned that it was not just Vietnam veterans that needed a coach and a champion; it was also the WW II, Korean, and peacetime veterans and their families that need a champion on their side. Cliff's there!

  As a strong "veterans advocate" he lobbied the federal and state government to improve veteran's health care, to build a Veterans Home in Southern Ohio, to put health clinics in Clermont and Brown Counties, and to improve treatment for female veterans.

  Cliff helps organize trips to the WWII Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veteran Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C. so that our valuable veterans could see the memorials built to honor them.

  He was on the committee that built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Union Township and many other memorials built throughout the county to honor veterans from all eras that gave it all, for all of us!

  Cliff has driven veterans to doctor appointments, taken them for cancer treatments, and sat by their bedsides at hospice. And now there is another group of veterans coming home that need a champion and Cliff's already there!

  Cliff Riley has been named “Vietnam Veteran of The Year'” for Ohio, received the Clermont County Chamber's 2014 "Salute to Military" Award, and has been recognized by the Ohio House and Senate for his Veteran advocacy work. He’s also received the Vietnam Veterans of America highest national award, the “President Commendation” Medal. In 2014 Cliff was inducted into the Clermont Northeastern High School Distinguished Alumnus Hall of Fame.

  He is currently the Ohio State Commander for VVA, in his 13th year as Clermont County Veteran Service Commissioner, and sits on Governor Kasich's Ohio Dept. of Veterans Services Advisory Board.

  Cliff is a disabled veteran and is a member of the DAV, VFW, American Legion, AMVETS and the VVA In 1970 Cliff married his High School sweetheart. They have one son and live in Milford.

Dinner 2014

  USMC Col. Danny Bubp (ret.) was elected the Open Arms Always Veteran of the Year in 2014. He was recognized not only for his military service, but his service to his community and state as well. (Click the picture to see the video!)

  His stellar military service began in 1978 as a 2nd. Lt., and continued until he retired in 2009 as a Col. in the USMC. He attended the Naval War College, and served in the U.S. Central Command in Operation Iraqi Freedom under Gen. Tommy Franks in 2003. He returned to Iraq in 2007, where he was deployed to Ramadi and Fallujah.

  During his service career he earned the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal.

  Here at home, Col. Bubp has served in law enforcement with the Brown County Sheriff's Department, and has been a magistrate, and a judge. Col. Bubp served the 88th Ohio District as our State Rep. When he was term limited, he returned to his home and expanded his law practice, with an office in West Union, and his new office in Georgetown.

   Col. Danny Bubp's service and dedication to our country, state and community provides today's youth an excellent example of what one individual can achieve. We wish him continued success in all of his future endeavors! Thank you, Danny, for all your service!

(Many thanks to Col. Brad Wenstrup, U.S. Army, for his contribution to this article.)  

Dinner 2013

    On April 6, 2013 Open Arms*****Always honored WWII USMC Bill Herdman who served in the South Pacific as a SBD Dive Bomber Crew Chief.

Services Coordinator Glenn Kassen presents Bill Herdman a Certificate of Appreciation & World War Two Victory Tie.
   Without the dedication and hard work of the crews on the ground our air assaults could not have gone on to win the war. They stood in awe of the pilots and the crews of those bombers, sometimes wondering how they even made it back to base. Bill guessed that maybe that was where the expression "On a wing and a prayer" must have started. There were times they had to cannibalize from one aircraft to another to keep them flying.

   He remembers what it was like to take showers in the ocean and always feel gritty and dirty. When a storm approached, all of the Marines on the island would run to get precious bars of Ivory soap, strip down, stand naked in the rain to get a "real" shower. He shook his head with a whimsical smile and said it was quite a sight to see 5,000 Marines getting clean for the first time in months.

   His talk was always full of humility and humor. He still, to this day, exemplifies the typical Marine philosophy. He is an honorable man who has served his community, his state, and his country well. He never stops emphasizing the importance of education to our youth.

   What did we learn from this Marine?

   Count your blessings every day. Never lose your faith. Always look on the bright side!


Dinner 2012

   The first Veteran Appreciation Dinner was on July 21, 2012 at at the Milford Frisch's on Lila Avenue, honoring CPO Peter Lansing, USN.

Navy veteran Peter Lansing and
Services Coordinator Glenn Kassen.
   Peter Lansing was a United States Navy Corpsman assigned to a Marine detachment in Viet Nam. He earned three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, and a Battlefield Commission.

   When Peter was Honorably Discharged, he applied for membership at a local veterans' organization. He was told that he did NOT qualify for membership because he was not involved in a Congressionally declared war, Viet Nam was a "police action".

   Years later he said in retrospect, "They should tell that to the over 58,000 names on that Wall in Washington, D.C. It sure seemed like a war at the time."

   Undaunted, Peter went to Montana where he became the first Montana Jewish Cowboy. Lying out under the moon, the stars, listening to the coyotes, horses snuffling, and the cows lowing was perfect for a while, but Peter decided to move on. He went to Washington state where he became the first Washington Jewish Lumberjack.

   Peter then decided to pursue his education and earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering. After a long career, the economy of the times forced him into retirement.

   Peter, a Scholar of the Torah and the Kabala, went on speaking tours across the country. During that time the ACLU was heating up the battle to remove religious symbols from the public square. He was in Cincinnati when they sued to remove a cross from Fountain Square. Peter attached the Menorrah to the top of his car and drove around the Square to emphasize that the First Amendment of The Constitution gives all Americans the freedom of religion.

   After he decided that he had enough of traveling, Peter learned the fine art of becoming a clown and a magician. He brought delight to c hildren and adults in Ohio and Kentucky.

   A lesson to be learned from this exceptional man is laugh, love, and most of all, NEVER QUIT!

This page last updated on 07/12/18.
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