Veterans Day service highlights sacrifice, heroism


By Sam Wildow

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PIQUA — The Piqua Veterans’ Association held its annual Veterans Day service on Thursday at the Piqua Veterans’ Memorial outside Forest Hill Cemetery, during which keynote speaker William A. “Bill” Hogston spoke on following in his family’s footsteps by serving in the U.S. military, as well as touching on heroes found both in and outside of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Hogston, a lifelong Piqua resident, is a United States Marine Corps veteran and retired Piqua firefighter and medic. He graduated from Piqua High School in 1985 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After completing his four-year active duty period, Hogston joined the Piqua Fire Department, where his father had also worked for over 20 years. Hogston retired from the fire department in 2015 and has spent his free time volunteering with the local Catholic churches. Hogston is married to Maria, and they have two children and two grandchildren.

Hogtson’s family history showed a tradition of service to the U.S. during major conflicts, including his great-great-grandfather’s participation in the 35th Indiana Infantry Regiment, which was a unit of the Union Army during the American Civil War. His grandfather, William — whom Hogston was named after — received his draft card but was disqualified because of childhood illnesses.

“He still wanted to serve, so he joined the Ohio National Guard in World War II, and he served right here in Piqua,” Hogston said. “He was heavily involved in civil defense.”

Hogston’s father, Bruce, who recently passed away in 2018, served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Hogston recalled how his father became interested in fire training and fire science in the Navy.

“He was set to leave the Navy in October (of 1965). His ship was finishing out a cruise on a body of water that nobody had heard about: the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam. My dad’s cruise was extended so that his ship could support combat operations during the Vietnam War,” Hogston said. Hogston went on to say that his father held great respect for those who served on the frontlines of the Vietnam War.

Following his service in the Navy, Bruce Hogston returned home to Piqua, married his wife, Carol, and worked at French Oil before taking the civil service test and joining the Piqua Fire Department in 1967, the same year Bill Hogston was born.

For Hogston, he didn’t set out to follow in his father’s footsteps, but the Marine Corps pointed him in the right direction after he was assigned to aviation firefighting and rescue during his enlistment.

“Those four years changed my life and pointed me in the right direction,” Hogston said. Hogston said he loved working in the public sector and serving his fellow citizens during his time at the Piqua Fire Department.

Hogston also touched on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, also talking about the heroism shown in United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania that same day. Flight 93’s target was either the U.S. Capitol or the White House when passengers revolted against the hijackers and the plane crashed.

While the images of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks are “nightmares,” Hogston remembered the heroism of those passengers, specifically mentioning Jeremy Glick, Todd Beamer, and Tom Burnett who rushed the hijackers.

“Jeremy Glick knew that was his last day on Earth,” Hogston said.

Hogston mentioned other heroes, specifically those with ties to Piqua, including John Mitchell of the 113th Ohio Infantry, William Pitsenbarger, and Samuel Pearson, who died while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq.

“When you go home, if you listen to the news tonight or you go on social media, you will hear about our current state of cancel culture and the growing culture wars in the United States, but I submit to you, despite our differences, we are a culture of patriots. We are a culture of Americans,” Hogston said. He said to never forget the “cowardly acts of terrorism” on 9/11, but he also asked the audience “to remember the valor, the heroism, the determination, the resolve, the true grit of those men and women, military and civilian, who rose from the dust and the ashes that day Sept. 12 and shook the world with American patriotism.”

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