GREENVILLE – Darke County native son and Greenville graduate from the class of 1976, Colonel Kirk Warner spoke to a large crowd on Veterans Day at the Garst Museum’s 2023-24 Lecture Series.
“A powerful and impactful event for everybody,” said Dr. Clay Johnson President and CEO of Garst Museum. “The turnout was wonderful, the program was wonderful and I am thankful for the DAR for their help – a great community event.”
Warner is a highly decorated Army Colonel, Iraqi War Commander, and Senior Judge Advocate who was legal counsel to three Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to several major U.S. Army and Coalition Commands. He has commanded units from company to brigade levels in the combat zone and stateside over his 33-year Army career. He is the author of two award-winning books and is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and a partner at the Smith Anderson law firm in Raleigh, NC.
Warner shared the percentage of Americans now serving in the United States Military is 0.04 percent.
“That’s four out of ten thousand,” Warner said. “It used to be 12.8 percent. Can you imagine during World War I and World War II in particular probably 80 percent of the men in this county of age – that shows where we are now so when you see a guy that’s in uniform, that is something special.”
Warner also noted Darke County and many of the Midwesterners provide the pilots for the United States Air Force.
“My kin the fighting Ryans, the four Ryans all brothers, three are buried overseas, two died in the war with wounds, one captured and then died in prison at Danville with another 1,500 captured soldiers but that is emblematic of what this county puts out,” shared Warner.
“We have a lot of people who serve with distinction and we need to always remember them,” said Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Steve Gruber.
When Gruber was asked about his father-in-law, the late Don Hittle, a WWII veteran, another of Darke County’s own, Gruber stated, “Just an amazing guy, humble. He would be the least likely guy in a crowded room to think he would have fought in the Battle of the Bulge and got a Bronze Star. He was not a very big guy but did his duty and he fired that machine gun until it was out of ammo.”
Warner told how Darke County raised more WWII war bonds dollars per capita than any other county in the country and had a warship named after it, the USS Darke, a Haskell-class attack transport, in service with the United States Navy from 1944 to 1946.
“That’s what this county does,” Warner said. “Only county in the United States that had a ship named after it because of what this county does.”
“We had the Markwith brother all from one family, five brothers all on one ship in the Pacific all from Darke County, that’s the type of folks we produce.”
“It goes back to Fort GreeneVille days – what this county means to the United States is untold, you can’t measure it,” said Jim Buchy. “What Kirk shared with us today are stories that we don’t hear from those who did those acts of bravery because they don’t want to talk about it. They don’t like to share about what they went through but yet if our Veterans didn’t do what they did we wouldn’t be standing here talking today. The people that came from Darke County as the Colonel reported in his talk today, that tells you the quality of people that we have here – it’s just unbelievable. They’re the best. We live as we’ve been taught, it’s generational and that is why I try to export what we have in Darke County to the rest of the world. We don’t want to import what they have, we want to export what we have.”
“Growing up in Greenville was the indispensable foundation to my military, educational, legal, and leadership success,” Warner said. “Darke was truly the light for me and my career.”
“Thirty-three years of the best,” Warner said of his military service to America. “I started out in the Medical Service Corps, I served as a Medical Service Officer, ran a MASH unit, Company Commanders, and then transferred into JAG (Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps) eventually. I was originally Armor, transferred to JAG, and went about 25 more years there. Commanded at all levels through Brigade and downrange fought the fights in the liberations of Iraq and then had the pleasure of serving three of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Chief Legal Counsel and Staff Judge Advocate Major Commands so I did it all, I was able to do it all and who does that from Darke County – it’s awesome but you never forget your roots.”
“There is not a day that goes by that everything I learned is right in these county walls,” Warner concluded. “You don’t know how lucky it is to grow up in Greenville, Ohio.”