Tears, laughter prevail at USO party in honor of American military personnnel
Twenty-six million Americans have worn a military uniform. One million Americans have died defending our country. And almost 200 residents of the Carson Valley came together on Thursday to celebrate Veterans Day in USO style.
The standing-room-only crowd at the Douglas County senior center fell silent as the VFW Post 8583 color guard presented the flag. And for the next hour, myriad emotions filled the room as men and women relived the stories and emotions of our nation’s wars.
Master of ceremonies Sheriff Ron Pierini acknowledged the great turn out and stated that a Veteran’s Day celebration is something that everyone should appreciate and participate in.
“Everyone seems to have a story, but sometimes we’re reluctant to share them,” Pierini said. “But don’t ever believe that people don’t thank you, because we do.”
Fred Moder, a Pearl Harbor survivor, said that the ceremonies were moving and brought back a lot of memories – many of them sad. Assigned to the USS Phoenix during WWII, the ship managed to escape Pearl Harbor.
“There weren’t any officers on board, but the crew knew what it had to do,” said Moder. “When we came back into port there were 3,000 dead bodies floating on the water. I’m praying for those 3,000 men today.”
Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, is also a Pearl Harbor survivor, and he shared recollections of seven years in the Navy.
Jacobsen joined the Navy in 1937, right out of high school.
“I heard there was a girl in every port, and that sounded better than milking cows and feeding hogs,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen, who serves on the Veteran’s Commission for the State of Nevada spoke proudly of the Veteran’s Hospital that will soon open in Boulder City, and the VA clinic in Las Vegas. After he mentioned the two military cemeteries in Boulder City and Fernley he asked the audience if they had voted.
“Because if you didn’t, you’re on my list,” said Jacobsen. “These men and women served and died to ensure us the right to vote, to keep us strong, safe and above all else, free.”
County Commissioner Bernie Curtis didn’t serve in the military, but he remembered the great men who served that touched his life.
Lt. Bernard John Curtis was a Navy pilot and a veteran of Pearl Harbor. He fell in 1942 at the Battle of the Coral Sea.
“I was named after him,” Curtis told the audience. “And Commander Bill Curtis, that’s my dad. He was in the navy for 26 years, a fighter pilot in World War Two and Korea. My dad is 83 and lives in Chico, Calif..”
The Douglas High School swing band kept toes tapping as they played a selection of songs from the Benny Goodman and swing band era. Many in the audience were singing along.
Peggy Young, dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, knew all the songs.
“I love this, it’s fabulous,” said Young. “It’s such a positive way to celebrate our veterans and bring back some memories.”
The showstopper of the USO show was the Andrews Sisters singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.” The song, lip-synced by Irene Boone, Doris Barrett and Doris Dantone had the crowd clapping and laughing.
“We only practiced together once, and that was in a closet,” said Dantone. “We were a little nervous about getting in front of all those people.”
Evelyn Gregory recalled stories of 48 World War Two veterans in her recently published book, “Operation Memories WWII.” She spoke about the vast numbers of men and women who served, and the poignancy of those stories she chose for the book.
“Each story is unique and tells a small part of our history,” she said. “But every person who served has a story that is important.”
Tears fell freely, yet backs were straight when Matt Wilson stepped up to the organ and played the military’s songs during Roll Call. Honored were the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
Florence Judd stood at attention during the Marine Corps salute. She wore medals around her neck and pinned to her suit jacket.
“This ceremony is overwhelming. My husband, Donald, was a Marine and served in Korea. He passed away Jan. 28 of this year, and I’m standing in for him,” said Judd, with tears in her eyes. “My husband always said, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine,’ and I add, ‘Always a Marine’s wife.'”
Leith Hooker served in the Army Air Corps during WWII.
“I didn’t serve overseas, I was on the ground crew at a flight training center,” said Hooker. “But still, it brought back memories to hear these stories. Sen. Jacobsen brought back more – some good, some bad – but all important.”
Several veterans spent time talking to Bonnie Rippee’s 2nd grade class from Gardnerville Elementary School when the class visited the senior center prior to the ceremonies.
“I hope the kids got something out of it, I know the veterans did,” said Warren Bottino, director of the senior center and event coordinator with Esther Hildebrand. “Acknowledgment means so much to the veterans. I’m just glad we could give them this day.”
Betty Pindar: “Sometimes I think veterans don’t understand how much we appreciate them. Today was a good day to show we cared.”
Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen: “Most heroes are sleeping somewhere. It’s an honor that I can be here with you, the survivors. Being a survivor is still number 1.”
Warren Bottino: “This ceremony mushroomed from a single comment. It’s fabulous that so many people took time out of their day to honor these veterans.”