NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio (WJW) — Wally Ohler is among the proud Americans who served this country in the United States Army during the war in Vietnam.
“I went in right after school when the draft was in 64, around that area, 63 but I wasn’t drafted. I signed up,” said Ohler. “To serve my country, I wanted to serve it, like I said, I wasn’t drafted and there was a big draft, I signed. It’s an honor to be a part of this country and to this day.”
Ohler’s youthful service photo hangs on a ‘Hometown Hero’ banner that flies along Royalton Road, among dozens of others he has helped to create as North Royalton’s Veteran’s Liaison.
“Jeremy, the councilman here and the mayor have gone way above and beyond to help me,” he said. “He came to me one night and said ‘I wanted to do something to honor that uniform.’ I said ‘how about making some hometown flag banners to honor the soldiers that have served.’ And so they started, and now we have quite a few of them flying. They go to Broadview (Road), they go towards Strongsville.”
“Strongsville said they were going to put them up because we put them up. Brunswick, I got a call from the police chief who said they were going to put theirs up and they put some up,” said Ohler.
Over the years Ohler and his ‘Band of Angels’ have gathered contents for care packages that they have shipped to deployed service members across the globe.
“When we get a request for a soldier to bring some thoughtfulness from their hometown, from their loved ones to take and send that in boxes whatever’s requested, now we get requests from beef jerky, toothbrushes, toothpaste, goodies, candy, cookies, the girl scouts, it’s just a multitude of things, different things that we have put in the boxes and shipped all over the world,” said Ohler.
Among the recipients has been the United States Army 10th Mountain Division while serving in Afghanistan.
“They said that they knew the packages were coming in and where they were coming from and they were shouting North Royalton, Parma, Strongsville, Brecksville just all of the names,” said Ohler.
He was sent a personal token of their gratitude along with a flag that had flown over their base overseas.
“They said what you did to bring so much kindness to us at a difficult time when we miss our loved ones, you brought a home so close, so we had to send something to you for outstanding support,” said Ohler.
Though not seeking gratitude for his efforts, Ohler says he is humbled when he learns of the impact he and his band of angels have made.
“This soldier, when I was down in Florida, he came up to me and tapped me on my shoulder. That’s when I asked him ‘how in the world do you know me,? I haven’t been here in years.’ He said ‘what you did for us, you got into our hearts and brought our families with us, especially during the holidays when we miss them the most’.”
“Every Christmas he gets gift cards to grocery stores and Walmart and Target and takes them around to recruiting offices and the military units,” said Tanya Karabanovs, of the Cleveland USO.
“There are so many military members that I know that I could introduce you to that have come from here and gone on to other places who have experienced Wally and will forever tell his praises because he just does amazing things,” she added.
Among the things Ohler has also helped to do is to get roadside signs along highways to honor the sacrifice of local service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
He has also worked to obtain and posthumously present medals to the families of WWII service members who are no longer with us.
For his tireless efforts, the city of North Royalton has dedicated a bridge in his honor at Memorial Park, where a permanent plaque has also been placed recognizing Ohler’s commitment to serving those who, like him, have served.
“You say something to a veteran or a liaison everybody knows Wally and to me, that’s about as impactful as you can get because that just means he’s out there touching everybody’s lives,” said North Royalton Mayor Larry Antoskiewicz. “Just his work ethic alone. I mean it’s tireless, you know, I don’t know any time I see Wally it seems he’s in the process of doing something for the veterans.”
“I do it because I love this country, and I’ve been honored to wear the uniform representing what this country is all about,” said Ohler. “Some days I can’t even get out of the chair, but God has given me the strength, God has given me the strength to truly be one of his children and to do good and that’s what I’m about i will always do good.”