SAYRE — It was a ceremony over 100 years in the making.
After being wounded in action on Nov. 5, 1918 — six days before the end of the Great War also known as World War I — Sayre native and Army Pvt. Raymond Varner eventually returned home, worked for the railroad for another 50 years and raised his family.
But because of a fire that destroyed his service records in 1973, the late Varner never received his honors for his service in combat.
That was until Thursday, the day before the 104th Veterans Day, when Varner’s Purple Heart and World War I Victory Medal were finally presented to Varner’s son, Robert, during a special ceremony at the Sayre VFW.
Robert Varner and his family were joined by the Valley Color Guard and Congressman Fred Keller, state Sen. Gene Yaw and state Rep. Tina Pickett for the ceremony. Robert was only able to simply express gratitude when he finally received his father’s awards.
“Thank you. Thank you all,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, but thank you for everything you’ve all done to make this happen.”
All three elected officials said it was an honor to be among those to witness the century-old effort finally come to a close.
“We appreciate (Robert) for bringing the information to our attention so (Raymond) could get his honors,” said Pickett, who also presented Robert with a certificate of appreciation from the state House of Representatives.
“This is very fitting the day before Veterans Day,” said Yaw. “(Robert) said his father was a ‘tough old guy.’ But I think that’s an understatement. He was shot by a machine gun in the field, and while he was being evacuated, the ambulance he was in had gotten blown up. He laid in that field for several hours before finally returning home. And then he worked for the railroad for 50 years. He was the epitome of being tough.”
Keller drew on former President Ronald Reagan, stating that those who say there are no heroes don’t know where to look.
“Raymond Varner came from Sayre, a place most people can’t find,” he said. “But that’s where heroes are from — the places you never heard of. And now today we are able to honor and acknowledge his sacrifices. The United States is so great because of sacrifices like Raymond’s and his fellow veterans. We are very blessed to have our veterans.”