There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd at one point during the live auction at the Miami Whitewater Chapter event. The event was held on January 18, 2020, in Fairfield, Ohio.
When the “Freedom Isn’t Free” WWll remembrance sculpture came up for purchase, Harold Edington was sitting at a table in the back of the banquet hall. He kept bidding until no one else was left. He was the winning bidder.
When the bidding was over, someone at Harold’s table stood and announced that Harold was a WWII veteran. Up to that point, none of the banquet organizers and attendees realized that Harold wanted the statue because he had actually been through WWll.
We all quickly realized what a great honor it was to have him attend the event. We asked him to stand, and he received a lengthy standing ovation. The attendees showed a genuine outpouring of gratitude for his incredible service to our country. Harold tipped his cap to the crowd as they applauded him.
Herb Mueller, a habitat partner and big supporter of the event, presented the sculpture to Harold immediately, amidst another huge round of applause. There were many in the crowd with tears in their eyes, including me. It was especially poignant, because 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII.
The statue went to the one person at the event who was the most deserving of owning it, and he didn’t pay a dime. Banquet attendee Frank Graci, came up to the table at the end of the night, and paid for the sculpture for Edington.
Later in the auction, the exact same thing happened with the “Flags of Valor,” wooden flag artwork. Made and signed by combat-disabled veterans, these flags are very special. Herb Mueller purchased the artwork and asked if he could present it to Harold. He got up on stage and gave it to Harold in another truly great moment. Harold was so touched by all of the recognition and gratitude. I could see him beaming with pride.
Later, Herb Mueller also won the Key Prize, a choice from the Royal Gun Board. Herb donated it to Harold, asking him to pick the gun he wanted for himself. Harold came up and picked his rifle.
When Harold walked to the finance table unassisted by a wheelchair or walker, to say goodbye at the end of the night, he was very appreciative of everything the attendees had done to honor him.
Harold is well over 90, but getting around just fine, so hopefully he will attend our next event. I plan to introduce him right at the beginning if he attends.
This was one of the most meaningful and moving experiences in my time with RMEF. I think I’m safe in saying that moments like this are one of the biggest reasons we love this organization!
by Rob Ruth