Veterans’ Day tribute at SOIMF

In addition to having a once in a lifetime date (11/11/11), all guests in attendance at the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival this past Friday experienced a once in a lifetime Veterans’ Day. The focal point of the evening was the legendary Bobby Osborne, who was honored on stage on the 60th Anniversary of his service in the Korean War.

The Veterans’ Tribute began with Miss Leslie Carpenter, a member of the United States Army, who is also a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a powerful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by the All-American Bluegrass Girl, Rhonda Vincent.

The performances began with the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival’s first international group, the Spinney Brothers out of Nova Scotia, Canada. It may seem odd for an international group to participate in Veterans’ Day, but the brothers taught the audience that November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada. It was great to have as a part of the evening, for the festival has a growing number of Canadian attendees which was particularly evident this year. The brothers’ tight harmonies on their original numbers, really helped represent the feeling of brotherly love the audience felt with our neighbors from the North.

The Spinney Brothers were followed by the festival’s host band, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers. The Ramblers’ portion helped the audience remember those who are no longer with us this Veterans’ Day. Their rendition of The Vacant Chair was delivered with a somber dignity.

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage followed the Ramblers for one of their modern day classics which remembers all soldiers: Till They Came Home. Stellar as usual, the Rage set the tone for what was next.

Mullins, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening — as well as the whole festival — retook the stage, and after a brief introduction, directed everyone’s attention to the large video screens, which showed a picture of Bobby Osborne in his uniform. The image was backed with a rare track from 1952, recorded by a young boy who, in addition to being a banjo prodigy, had an older brother serving in the Korean War. Sonny Osborne’s original song A Brother in Korea played for the audience as Bobby took the stage, sixty years after leaving for Korea.

Mullins then went over the details of Osborne’s military service in Korea. Having left Dayton, Ohio sixty years ago this month (November 1951), Bobby Osborne became a U.S. Marine and a soldier in the Korean War. He was wounded in Panmunjom, and returned to the fighting until the summer of 1953. He was honorably discharged with several medals and decorations: Korean Service Medal with 3 Stars, U.N. Service Medal, Defense Service Medal, and a Purple Heart.

An award from the Governor of the State of Ohio, Mr. John Kaisich was then presented to Osborne by Mullins. This was in honor of the Sixtieth Anniversary of Osborne’s honorable service in Korea, as well as Osborne’s legendary musical career.

Ohio’s Attorney General, Mike DeWine (a lover of bluegrass music) took the microphone for an additional presentation. DeWine expressed his gratitude to Osborne for his commendable war record. He then presented Osborne with a flag that had been flown over the Ohio State Capitol building in honor of his military service, and his musical career. Osborne also accepted a flag flown over the United States Capitol building in similar recognition.

The man of the hour then spoke, expressing words of gratitude to all involved. He shared several tales which left the audience with both tears and laughter: how he ended up in the Marines, why he trained in California, and also telling one on his friend Terry Baucom. All would have been content to have Osborne on stage reminiscing for the rest of the night, but there was still more to do in honoring our nation’s heroes.

The tribute’s grand finale was when Rhonda Vincent & the Rage were joined by Alternative Strings, an advanced music program offered at Centerville High School in Centerville, OH. This string section prides itself in playing music which is “Outside the BACH,” and has also worked with many other bluegrass stars including Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Cherryholmes, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. The group of high school students did a wonderful job backing the Rage in a moving rendition of the Vincent original, God Bless The Soldier.

Immediately following this powerful piece, Aaron McDarris played a flawless rendition of Sonny Osborne’s arrangement of America The Beautiful. It was a fitting close for a memorable tribute to all who have served in the defense of our great nation.

God Bless America and God Bless The Soldier.

A recap of all Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival festivities will be coming shortly.

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About the Author

Daniel Mullins

Daniel is from southwestern Ohio and has been around bluegrass his entire life. He manages the Classic Country Connection, a music store in southern Ohio which specializes in bluegrass, classic country, gospel, and Americana music. He is the host of the Bending The Strings radio program, which plays a variety of bluegrass, newgrass, and Americana music. He also maintains the website for Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers. photo by LuAnn Adams