After "making the thrust" against Nazis on Utah Beach and at the Battle of the Bulge, Wendell Ellenwood will lead the Upper Arlington Civic Association's Memorial Day Run as the event's honoree.
In addition to bringing the community and running enthusiasts together through its annual Memorial Day Run, the Upper Arlington Civic Association (UACA) also seeks to pay homage to men and women who've put their lives on the line in the name of freedom and national defense.
This year, part of that tribute will involve Wendell Ellenwood, 92, who, at roughly 9 a.m. May 26, is slated to stand at the corner of Lytham and Reed roads to commence the Memorial Day Run as the event's 2014 honoree.
"I don't think I'm supposed to do anything other than firing a gun at the start of the race," he said. "I said, 'I could do that.'"
Ellenwood, who now lives at Friendship Village of Dublin, was selected to preside over the run due to his local ties. He and his late wife, Mary Janet Ellenwood, raised four children -- Sandy, Gary, Kay and Dean -- in Upper Arlington. Ellenwood is a past president of both the Upper Arlington Rotary Club and the UACA.
Additionally, being named an honoree is a nod to his military service, which arguably stacks up with any American's.
On June 6, 1944, Ellenwood was an artillery forward observer on "the point" for U.S. Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army as it stormed Utah Beach in Normandy and then dashed across Europe, covering 600 miles through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
During that time, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, a major German offensive campaign in December 1944 and January 1945 launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II in Europe. The surprise attack yielded some of the highest casualties for the United States during the war, but it also severely depleted Germany's war-making resources.
"We were usually with whoever was making a forward advance," Ellenwood said. "We did what we were supposed to do.
"All the fellows that were with me, we were there to do a specific job and we had to do it."
Those matter-of-fact recollections were typical of Ellenwood's assessment of his service recently as he talked about his role in this year's Memorial Day Run.
His most candid moments came as he talked about the Battle of the Bulge, and the memories that grip him.
"It was the coldest winter they'd had in 50 years," he said. "We were down in the southern region.
"(One) night, we had to turn around and head back into France. I've never been so cold. I can still feel it."
As Ellenwood looks back, he said he and his fellow soldiers "just wanted to get back home and do what we had been doing."
His hopes included returning to Mary Janet, who he had married during a seven-day furlough, and a baby that had been born while he was still fighting.
Ellenwood planned to go to law school, but when he returned stateside, he worried that a law degree and legal work might take too much additional time away from his family.
Instead, he completed a master's degree in 1947 in public administration at Ohio State University, worked for the federal government and eventually became director of OSU's Ohio Union.
At a friend's suggestion, Ellenwood went on to direct the UACA's Youth in Government program and moved up the ranks of that organization and the UA Rotary Club.
"He does truly exemplify the 'Greatest Generation,'" said Greg Baryluk, UACA director-Memorial Day Run. "He also was very active, not only with the Ohio Union, but with the Ohio State University marching band and many activities at Ohio State.
"The other thing that put him over the top was he was Upper Arlington Civic Association president in 1967. It's him being a World War II vet, his service in Europe and him being UACA president, which is more than just being a member. That's a commitment."
Ellenwood, a Jackson County, Ohio, native, lived in Upper Arlington with Mary Janet from 1957 to 1985. He spoke with pride of the education provided to his children by Upper Arlington schools, and noted that Sandy now teaches in Greenville, N.C., Gary works for C-SPAN in Washington, D.C., Kay teaches in Dayton and Dean is a minister in Austin, Texas.
As for the invitation to serve as the Memorial Day Run honoree, Ellenwood initially hedged because -- as a soldier whose family military experience extends back in every generation to an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War -- he has maintained a tradition instilled by his father to place flags on veterans' graves at six southern Ohio cemeteries.
He ultimately agreed to participate in the Memorial Day Run after assurances that a relative would uphold the graveside gestures.
"That was kind, very thoughtful of them," Ellenwood said of the UACA recognition. "Everybody who did what I did should be recognized for just having done their job.
"Everyone from my generation, we were expected to do and we did it."