Nichole Coleman, left, director of the Hancock County Veterans Service Office, participates in the National Veterans Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday. Coleman also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Provided photo)

By SARA ARTHURS

Staff Writer

Nichole Coleman described the ceremony in which she laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as “very surreal.”

Coleman, executive director of the Hancock County Veterans Service Office, participated Monday in the National Veterans Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Before the ceremony, she and others in her group went to a breakfast where the keynote speaker was Robert Wilkie, secretary of Veterans Affairs. Then they went to Arlington National Cemetery, where Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote speaker.

Pence also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then, after the ceremony, each of the organizations that were represented was able to lay a wreath.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Coleman, adding that she was particularly grateful her husband was able to be with her. He is also a veteran, and was with her for most of her military career.

“I think it was a reminder of how proud I am to be a veteran” and to have a job representing veterans in not just any county, but “my county,” said Coleman. She is a Hancock County native and a 1990 graduate of Findlay High School.

She said it was also meaningful to be among so many veterans.

There are “so many wonderful veterans in the country” that she felt honored to be the one chosen to represent Hancock County.

Coleman is the first vice president for the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers. She said the president of the organization attended this same ceremony last year, but was not able to attend this year, so forwarded the invitation to Coleman to lay the wreath on behalf of the organization. Officially, she was invited by Wilkie.

Coleman said the organization’s Washington liaison has a daughter who is joining the Marines. The night before the ceremony, Coleman met the woman and told her that basic training would be difficult but, once she finished it, she would “forever for the rest of her life be a veteran” and no one could take that away from her. There’s no way to describe the pride that comes with that, Coleman said.

Coleman said Pence’s speech made reference to the youngest Medal of Honor recipient. When his ride was finished, an Uber driver told this veteran, “Thank you for your service.” His response was, “You are worth it.”

“I got goosebumps” at that point in the speech, Coleman said, adding that it’s what most veterans believe.

And while Monday was noteworthy in Ohio for a rare early-November snowstorm, Coleman in Washington experienced sunshine and 68-degree temperatures during the ceremony, which was held at 11 a.m. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is traditional for Veterans Day.

“It stayed beautiful the entire day,” she said.

Coleman was appointed as executive director of the Hancock County Veterans Service Office and as county veterans service officer in December 2011.

She received training and accreditation as a county veterans service officer from the national association in 2012, and in 2014 was elected to serve a two-year term as the women’s veteran representative. She was then elected to serve a two-year term as an executive board member and is currently on her second term as first vice president.

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