People sit on either side of an aisle under the pavilion at Ashland County's fairgrounds. A man stands on the stage.
An audience of veterans listens to Greg Gorrell give a speech for Veterans Day at the Ashland County Fair on Sept. 18, 2023.

ASHLAND — Greg Gorrell didn’t talk about his experiences in Vietnam for decades when he returned from the war. 

Gorrell, an Ashland High School and Ashland University grad, served in the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam. 

In 2016, Gorrell shared that he returned to Vietnam for the first time since his service. He brought his sons and journaled about his experiences. Gorrell said he gave each of his sons a copy, along with his four daughters and his wife, with the goal of preserving his experiences. 

Gorrell addresses a crowd under the pavilion at Ashland County’s fairgrounds.

And 56 years later, at Veterans Day at the Ashland County Fair, Gorrell served as the keynote speaker. He shared about the importance of veterans telling family members about their experiences with a crowd gathered under the fairgrounds’ pavilion.

“May I extend the invitation to each of you to share your story to those that you love while you still can,” Gorrell said. “It took me several decades before I could and before I was willing to. May you not delay in sharing your story with those you love. If you do delay, a significant portion of our country’s history will be lost forever.”

His speech’s focus was the idea of veterans remembering and sharing about their experiences. 

For him, the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall that came through Ashland in August gave an opportunity to remember, too. 

Gorrell talked about how he helped people find names on the wall. There was the woman from Shelby he escorted to a name, only to turn and see her become emotional. There was the fellow Vietnam veteran he helped find a name. 

He left a tribute for two members of his own army infantry combat platoon at the wall in August, too. 

“Some time ago, a dear veteran friend of mine said that all veterans can best be thanked by embracing the freedoms that we fought for, and by standing on and defending the moral high ground,” Gorrell said. “The high ground is symbolized by Old Glory, the American flag, the stars, the stripes, the star-spangled banner — all symbolic of the sacrifice that each of you here today have made.” 

His speech followed an honor walk around the fairgrounds. Veterans wearing caps settled into the pavilion. They received goodie bags thanks to Hospice of North Central Ohio — who sponsored the event — and listened to Gorrell speak. 

They also filled the place with the national anthem’s words. The veterans all sang it together before the program started. They sang “God Bless America” at the end of Gorrell’s speech, too.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...