Veterans Day salute to those who serve

by Sharlene Irete

Veterans who served in World War II to those currently serving in the Armed Forces were honored at the Douglas County Senior Center's 11th annual USO Veterans Day celebration on Wednesday.

Walter Spaelti, who will be 93 next month, said he was already in the infantry at Camp Roberts, Calif., at the beginning of World War II.

"I got drafted before Pearl Harbor," Spaelti said. "I was in three branches of the service for four years. I wound up in the Air Force 43rd bomber group as a radio operator. I saw action in the Philippines and have five battle scars."

Spaelti and his friends, who meet daily at the senior center, enjoyed the USO Day festivities of speakers, music from the 1940s and '50s by the Douglas High School Jazz Band, a flag presentation by Carson Valley VFW Post No. 8583, and a song and poem by sixth-graders from Gardnerville Elementary, and a lunch of fried chicken and apple pie for 125.

A few seats down from the World War II vet were two veterans of the Vietnam War. Mel Grimm, 69, served in the Navy as a radioman third class before and during the Vietnam War, and Ronald Smith, 67, served on an aircraft carrier and worked the flat-domed radar for an E-2 Hawkeye.

Shawn Judd, 17, is part of the Junior ROTC program at Douglas High School and came to the USO Veterans Day celebration dressed in his grandfather's Korean War uniform. He attended with his father Dwight Judd, who is a Navy vet, and his grandmother Flo Judd.

"My three brothers were in World War II, and my other son Donald was in the Army in 1972," said Flo. "My husband Don served in Korea. When Shawn mentioned he was interested in the Marines, I told him to go upstairs and see the uniform on the rack. It fit perfectly except that his grandfather was a little taller. Shawn was so excited."

"My grandfather was a sergeant in the Marines," Shawn said. "I didn't know what I was going to do after I graduate until I saw ROTC at school. I got involved in the Devil Pups program, took the course and passed. After graduation I'm going to go into the Marines."


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