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  • The Garst Museum

Free Veterans Day Program November 11, 2023

The Garst Museum’s 2023-24 Lecture Series will continue on Saturday, November 11 at 2:00 p.m. This Veteran’s Day program will look at Heroes: Yesterday and Today. The speaker will be Darke County native Kirk Warner.


Warner is a 1976 Greenville High School graduate and 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, a nationally recognized trial lawyer, and a partner at the Smith Anderson law firm in Raleigh, NC.

What makes a hero and who is a hero? Warner believes the answer comes from Ralph Peters, who put it succinctly, “‘Heroes are men who overcome themselves.’ I will talk about several heroes from the bloody fields of St. Clair’s Defeat to the deserts of Southwest Asia, many with ties to Darke County. True heroes who overcame themselves.” He praised all veterans, “In devotion to duty and to each other, our servicemen and women have kept their contract with America and offered to sacrifice the last full measure of devotion for our country. They are called veterans. We owe them a debt we cannot fully pay. These heroes fight and do extraordinary things not just for their country but also, perhaps primarily, for their brothers and sisters standing to their right and left in formation and in the field of battle. Our veterans and those who support them are all heroes in some way.”


With his definition of a hero, Warner certainly has a family filled with heroes. “Our family has served in every American war since the French and Indian War, often at great cost, including my first cousin William Wells, who fought for Little Turtle at St. Clair’s defeat and later with Anthony Wayne here at Fort Greene Ville,” he said.

Warner wrote about one family member he calls a hero in the book, “A Hoot in Hell’s Island: The Heroic Story of World War II Dive Bomber Lt. Cmdr. Robert “Hoot” Gibson.” Warner said his uncle, Hoot Gibson was a dive-bomber off the Yorktown at Midway and the Enterprise at Guadalcanal during the Pacific War.

As for the hero that impressed him the most, he said it was his friend Dr. Tom McNish. “Tom is a retired Air Force Colonel who was shot down piloting his F-105 Thunderbird on his 45th mission (he says he only completed 44 ½ missions). He was taken as a Prisoner of War on Sept. 4, 1966. After spending 2,373 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. He attended medical school and then went on to serve a long and distinguished career as a flight surgeon in the Air Force. Talk about a hero, Tom, is it.”


Warner is excited to return home and be part of the Garst Museum Lecture Series. He said, “Darke County is such a patriotic place. It was the only county in the country to have a warship (the USS Darke – a Haskell-class attack transport) named for it because our citizens bought more war bonds per capita than any other county in the United States. My grandfather was the high school principal for over 25 years and a World War I veteran. He, other great teachers, coaches, and my parents, were perfect mentors who shaped my leadership philosophies and skills. Growing up in Greenville was the indispensable foundation to my military, educational, legal, and leadership success. Darke was truly the light for me and my career.”


Join Warner to learn about Heroes: Yesterday and Today on Saturday, November 11, at 2:00 p.m. He will have both of his books available for purchase. Warner is the author of “A Hoot in Hell’s Island: The Heroic Story of World War II Dive Bomber Lt. Cmdr. Robert “Hoot” Gibson” and “Zone of Action: A JAG’s Journey Inside Operations Cobra II and Iraqi Freedom.”


There is no cost to attend the program; however, regular fees apply to tour the museum. You can learn more about Darke County’s heroes by visiting the museum’s Keepers of Freedom exhibit. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.



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