Saluting Our Veterans

Saluting Our Veterans

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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Saluting all who serve

Saluting all who serve

Saluting all who serve

By E. Adam Porter, Editor

 

The dogs started barking as he came up the walk. They are always excited to see him, as are his not-so-little-anymore brothers, who got to the door just seconds after the Golden Retrievers. My eldest son, Christian, was home for a visit. 

A year removed from finishing his six-year hitch in the United States Air Force, Chris had something on his mind to share with mom and dad. After a few compulsory minutes wrestling with his brothers, he sat down at the dinner table. I offered him a beer. 

So, I’m thinking about re-enlisting, he said. No preamble, just right into it. That’s Chris. Especially when he’s pretty close to a decision about something. Into the Army this time… he said. They have the job I want, and they’ll let me keep my rank. This was offered as tentative information, but I could tell his mind was, mostly, made up. More than mostly, it turned out. 

A few weeks later, I dropped Chris off at the recruiting office. He was scheduled to fly out for Basic Training early the next day. The first of many early days in his imminent future. And, now, we wait. It will be at least five weeks before we will hear from him. He’ll miss Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s. He graduates One Station Unit Training (OSUT) on Valentine’s Day. Where to next? Only the Army knows. 

As I sit here, recalling that dinner table revelation, my mind drifts back about twelve years, to the day a 14-year-old kid sat down across from me at a different dinner table in a different house with something similar on his mind. Dad, I think I might want to go into the military. He was tentative then, just feeling out the idea. At 14, four years until graduation seems like an eternity. I told him I would be proud of him, no matter what he chose, and that his mother and I loved him, and wanted him to do what was right for him. Do some research, we said. Talk with family members and friends who served. Take what the recruiters tell you with a grain of salt

As I write this, Chris has just begun his first day of OSUT, along with thousands of other recruit trainees. Unlike most of them, he enters training as a sergeant and a seasoned veteran. Which, I’m sure, the Army DIs will make sure he remembers. It’s their job to prepare these brave young men and women to join the approximately 1.4 million Americans serving in the United States Armed Forces. 

In addition to those currently serving in either active duty or the reserves, there are, depending on your source and the year, between 18 and 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population. Nearly half of these are over 65 years of age. Many volunteered, others were drafted. What every one of them has in common is that, when their country called, they raised their hand. 

On November 11, we come together as a nation to honor their commitment and their sacrifice. A service is planned in SCC at Community Hall. Many others will be held throughout the Tampa Bay area, across the country, and around the world. Like as not, my son will spend the day rucking through the woods with his platoon. 

Tens of thousands of deployed Americans will spend the day set aside to honor them aboard ships with no land in sight, or in tents far from home, or on dusty roads somewhere in the desert or in the mountains of some global hotspot. Others will spend the day in tanks stationed along the DMZ in Korea, or in administrative buildings in Kuwait, England, or Germany. Some will be on training missions in undisclosed areas or piloting aircraft to enforce no-fly zones. They live and work and play on bases set behind tall fences, a world removed from civilian life; or they live next door, sharing the same roads, shopping at the same supermarkets, and sending their kids to the same schools as you and me. 

Over the past decade or so, it’s become cliché to “Thank a Veteran,” almost as reflexive as saying, “Happy Holidays.” While the impulse is good, we should be careful not to allow the well-wishes to become mundane. Honoring veterans, no matter when, where, or why they served, is the duty of every American. Whether or not we agree with the reasons or the wars, all of us who live in the Land of the Free should appreciate everyone who swore to “support and defend the Constitution, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”

It’s the least we can do for those who put the most on the line. 

NOTE: Statistics taken from Pew Research, Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the US Census.

Photo Credit: Military TImes (David H. Lipp/Air National Guard)

 

 

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