Saluting Our Veterans

By E. Adam Porter, Editor, and the News Team

This month, I asked our reporters to join me in the Editor’s Corner to share about some of the veterans who have made a difference in their lives. If you are a veteran, thank you for your service. And, if your life has been touched by a veteran, I hope these stories remind you of those veterans who made a difference in your life.

Through the help of diligent cousins and computers, I recently learned that my family’s military investment in this great nation goes all the way back before the beginning, to Moses Porter, who fought with General Washington in the Revolution. Military service has remained a venerated vocational pursuit in my family, and when I think about veterans who made a difference for me, the list is endless, so I’ll try to summarize.

My neighbor, retired electrical engineer turned rancher John Sholine, was the first person to encourage me to seriously pursue writing as a vocation, rather than a hobby. Upon my graduation from high school, John gave me a letter, congratulating me and wishing me well. Enclosed with the letter was a poem he had written as a much younger man, during a cold and lonely night in a frozen foxhole in Belgium. That poem, titled Introspection, is one of the best gifts I have ever received.

My grandfather, Major Julian Dixon, led men in both World War II and Korea; my uncle, Robbie Dixon, spent two tours in Vietnam as well as neighboring countries we never officially “visited.” My grandfather died when my mother was very young, and we lost my uncle earlier this year. Every day, I am grateful for their example and for their investment in our family’s legacy. And I miss them. Two of my brothers, Bill and Nathan, served in the U.S. Army, and my eldest son, Christian, has served in both the USAF and the US Army. Chris is currently overseas, in harm’s way, protecting American interests in what remains a war zone. 

Julian Dixon

Robbie Dixon

Christian Merrell

This Veterans Day, and every day, I’m grateful for those who have served and those who still do, grateful for their skill, their work, and their stories… grateful for the examples they set and the legacy they left us to live up to. Many members of The News team feel the same way. Here are their stories…

Diane Loeffler

My father, Lenard Safranski, was in the Army Signal Corps and spent most of his time fighting in Germany, except when he was behind enemy lines in France radioing information about the location of German troops. He never talked about fighting, but he did tell us about some of his former high school classmates being killed right before his eyes. I remember my father talking about sleeping in the snow in Germany. He said he always crawled in his sleeping bag and completely zipped it shut before taking off his boots. He said sometimes it was confusing to know which way was up because the snow was so heavy on top of the sleeping bag. He quickly learned to put his bag near a tree or other large object so that the tanks wouldn’t inadvertently run over him after a heavy snow.

Lenard M. Safranski

In the 1990s, my father was in his seventies. He was upset at some of the negative talk about our troops in the Middle East. He made signs saying, “Honk if you support our troops.” The local newspaper noticed him standing on the corner and put his photo in the paper. Dad’s loyalty and patriotism were unshakeable.

My mother’s brothers served in World War II as well. My dad, my uncles, and my dad’s cousin were all proud of their country and of their service during the war. Putting their lives on the line for our country made them value our nation even more than they had before they enlisted. One of my cousins served in Korea where he spent most of his time guarding the border. He talked about how cold it was. My husband was a Seabee in Vietnam. He drove naval dignitaries around in what they called “the Saigon taxi.” He delivered petroleum to bases in Vietnam and worked in dispatch.

As a member of the high school graduating class of 1967, many of my classmates fought in Vietnam. Most came home afterwards, some did not. I also have friends and co-workers who served in the military. In a world where peace can be elusive, thank heavens we have men and women who are willing to fight for our country and all that it represents. 

Al Cronheim

Paula Lickfeldt

My father, Al Cronheim, left high school and lied about his age to join the army during WWII. He was sent to North Africa where he fought with Patton’s army against Rommel. Later, he and Patton’s force fought in Italy. Dad was in the Army Air Corps for five years. Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to be my dad’s guardian on his Honor Flight to Washington D.C. We really had a good day together. I believe it was one of the very best days I have ever had with my dad.

Joseph W. Sanchez

Bob Sanchez

My father, Joseph Sanchez, was an ensign on the S.S. Flying Eagle, a Merchant Marine ship that transported vital materiel to our troops in Europe in 1944. Ships like his sailed the North Atlantic under constant threat from U-boats. He was a radio officer who sent and received messages via Morse Code, earning him the nickname “Sparky.” A naturalized U.S. citizen from British Honduras (now Belize), he proudly served his adopted country and instilled that same pride in his four sons. He enjoyed teaching Morse Code to me and my fellow Explorer Scouts.

Ilona Merritt

I come from a long line of military men who served their countries with pride. My grandfather was in the German Marine. My father was a pilot in the Luftwaffe. He died somewhere over Normandy on D-Day. My first husband, Ray Baker, served in the USAF, as did his sons, Eric and John Baker. Both were career members of the United States Armed Forces and retired as master sergeants, having served 20 and 26 years respectively. Eric has two sons: 2LT Thomas Baker graduated from the Air Force Academy, and Thomas’ younger son is a U.S. Army sergeant stationed in Hawaii. Eric was the personal photographer assigned to Admiral Leighton Smith, who was in charge of the South Atlantic Fleet. My present husband, Russ Merritt, served in the U.S. Army in Germany during and after WWII. Upon returning home, he found himself getting back on a ship and heading to Korea.

Pictured: top row: Karl Bandelin, Marine; Egon Pawlowski, Luftwaffe. Second row: Ray Baker, John Baker, Eric Baker, Thomas Baker. Bottom row: Russ Merritt, Joe Baker.

From all of us here at The News, to all the veterans in our community and in our lives, thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and the legacy you leave for the next generation of those who choose to serve their nation and her people. And, if you have a veteran story to share, please add it in the comments.

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