As the country nears the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the LaBelle community gathered at Veterans Park to celebrate those who have supported this country so well over the years through the military. VFW 10100 traditionally hosts the Veterans Day activities.
According to American Legion Post 130 Commander Matt Kindermann, our veterans are always here 365 days a year, working to better the community. He invited all veterans attending to stand and asked them to answer “God Bless America” if while serving their country they:
• Endured long separations from family;
• Missed the birth of a loved one;
• Froze in sub-zero weather or baked in a steamy jungle;
• If they were injured while serving their country.
Noting that the experiences of military families are not the same, but equally hard, he then asked those who had been military spouses to respond “God Bless American” if they:
• Had to change their address multiple times;
• Had to explain to their children why they had to move “again”;
• Had to explain to their children when their dad was coming home;
• Socialized with others and had to explain a military acronym or were uncomfortable with others who did not share their experiences.
He added that it’s important that veterans see support for them in the community.
DAV Chapter 144 Commander Bob Schall cited the “unique American experience” of veterans, their strength and perseverance, saying, “You can’t beat a person who won’t give up.”
LaBelle resident C. Ray Carter is a veteran of World War II and community member offering his respect and support to his fellow veterans that day. A proud American, he can trace his ancestors back to their arrival in Jamestown. He said the British Crown granted one of ancestors 6,000 acres in Williamsburg for returning to England and bringing additional colonists.
Mr. Carter served his country in the Pacific Theater – participating in the landings at New Guinea and The Philippines.
Now 93 years old, he said as a corporal in the infantry with the medical corps he never carried a gun. He served his country and his fellow soldiers in a field hospital tent at the front lines, dodging bullets as he worked to save the lives of American servicemen. He said members of the medical corps were specifically targeted by the Japanese in an attempt to keep them from saving men who might return to the battlefield. While serving in the Pacific, he said he contracted malaria, but has not had much problem with it since then.
At the beginning of the war, the Danville, Virginia, native received a year’s deferment as a driver for Trailways Bus, but was then drafted into the Army. He said he served three years before returning home where he went back to the bus company. Eventually, he opened a successful office supply store in Danville, that his family still runs.
Ray Van Houten of VFW 10100 explained to the crowd the new effort to build a wall at Veterans Park similar to the Viet Nam Wall, displaying the names of local servicemen and women. The wall will replace the memorial bricks now paving the park, which are deteriorating. The crowd was asked to donate to help build the wall, which is estimated to cost some $35,000.
The crowd was invited to attend a luncheon at the VFW post after the ceremony and then a parade and activities later in the day.