Veterans honored at the fair


By Amantha Garpiel

For Miami Valley Today

TROY — The Miami County Fair, in collaboration with the independent non-profit Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support of Piqua, welcomed veterans from all branches of the military for a ceremony in their honor.

The ceremony took place during the Miami County Fair on Sunday, Aug. 13, in the grandstand and included speeches from guest speakers; a prisoner of war, POW, and missing in action, MIA, presentation; a Volley of Honor from the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad. The ceremony also included the playing of “Taps,” the national anthem and other musical selections performed by C Baccus and Company; an Armed Forces Salute, arranged by Robert Lowden, recorded by Ted Zimmerman and the Kings Brass in 2009, and was accompanied by an equestrian drill team carrying the flags of each branch of the US military, coordinated by Crystal Ganger.

The POW/MIA presentation, conducted by a member of Veterans Elite Tribute Squad, VETS, was done to save a place in honor of service members who did not make it home. A folded flag was also presented and laid on a table set front and center for the ceremony.

The two guest speakers, Jennifer Wells, Army veteran, and Valerie Mullikin, Navy veteran spouse and executive director of Veteran and Caregiver Support, shared stories of their past that have led them to where they are now.

Wells joined the military in 2005 and was deployed to Iraq immediately following her graduation from boot camp. During her time in Iraq she experienced multiple incidents that changed her life including a 42-foot-fall which resulted in numerous surgeries to her back and arm as well as a traumatic brain injury. She now works for the American Red Cross helping veterans and various individuals including immigrants and refugees.

During her speech she said she has always “felt the call” to help people, and after being discharged from the army, she found a new way to help. Wells said it is what keeps her going on her toughest days.

“Working with veterans is how I’ve gotten through it. Helping others keeps me going,” said Wells.

During Mullikin’s speech she shared her journey from a young Navy wife to where she is today as executive director of Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support. The non-profit focuses on helping veterans and their families and caregivers find and navigate the various sources and assistance programs available to them as veterans and their caregivers. Based in Piqua, Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support is still in its early stages as a non-profit but with events like the twice-monthly “Muster and Mingle” events, the non-profit helps to create a family environment for local Miami Valley Veterans.

Mullikin began Operation Veteran and Caregiver support after years of searching for support amongst other Navy spouses and fiercely advocating for her husband’s medical care and well-being following his discharge from the Navy. She, along with others at Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support, now help individuals in similar situations feel heard and cared for.

During the duration of the fair, here are three veterans’ booths located in the Commercial Building at the Miami County Fairgrounds The booths are available to assist veterans and their families.

Mullikin and Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support works with partner organizations to connect veterans to those resources; all that it provides directly is support and encouragement to follow through with the organizations they connect veterans to, as well as a sense of community through the Muster & Mingle events.

Also present in the Commercial Building is the Miami Valley Veterans Museum and the creator of the Military Story Mission, Dr. Vivian Blevins will be available to assist veterans in beginning to write down and share their military stories.

To become a part of Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support as someone in need of support or as a volunteer, visit their website at

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