Waterloo honors special generation of veterans - Republic-Times | News

Waterloo honors special generation of veterans

By on November 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

Dan DeWilde is honored as Mayor Tom Smith looks on. (Corey Saathoff photo)

Veterans who served our nation in the 1960s and 1970s may not have received the recognition and thanks they earned when they returned from duty. But Waterloo is making sure they are getting it now.

After a successful Veterans Day event last year that honored those who served during the Vietnam War, this year’s recipients of honors were veterans who served anywhere in the world during 1962-1975.

“It was a very special night as I stood next to my brothers in arms,” said Kermit Constantine, a 21-year Air Force veteran. “Military men and women share a special bond, and I appreciated the honor given to us that night from the sponsoring organizations and the high school students that participated.”

Constantine was one of 63 veterans recognized in the ceremony at Waterloo High School jointly coordinated by the city, VFW, American Legion and Waterloo Park District. Music was provided by the Waterloo High School Concert Choir and Gibault High School Choir, who together performed the National Anthem, the Tribute to the Armed Forces and God Bless America.

Waterloo school superintendent Jim Helton spoke of the privilege of being able to participate in such an event to celebrate the sacrifices of veterans of all military branches.

“Just as it was your duty to serve our country, it is our duty to honor your service,” he told the veterans.

Pictured are all those who were honored during a Veterans Day service held Friday night in the Waterloo High School auditorium. In the very back (center) are four young men who were also recognized after recently returning home from Afghanistan as part of the Army National Guard. (Corey Saathoff photo)

The evening’s keynote speaker was Captain Martin Massey, who served as Commander of the Illinois National Guard 766th Engineer Battalion in Decatur until he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan when the 661st Engineer Company commander could not because of a medical condition. Massey and his entire company returned home Sept. 17 after nearly a year in Afghanistan.

Following his remarks, he was embraced by Helton, who was a teacher in Massey’s hometown of Robinson while Massey was in school.

“It’s an honor to be here tonight, with so many distinguished veterans,” Massey said. “Veterans are cut from a fabric like no other, with a sense of purpose that is unmatched. These soldiers are divided by years, but they are united by one common characteristic – sacrifice.”

Among those honored was Father Ronald Weber, who has served as associate pastor at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Waterloo since July. A native of Michigan, Weber served as a Master Sergeant in the Army from 1966 to 1986, working in data communications with the First Signal Brigade and serving tours in Vietnam, Korea and Germany.

His late wife, Sandy, was with him for 17 years of his military journey, Father Weber said. After she passed away in 2007, he took the steps to follow an interest he’d had since a young age, and was ordained as a priest on May 26 of this year.

As for Friday’s service, Weber came away impressed.

“It made me proud to be an American soldier,” he said. “After all these years, to be honored for my service… it caught me by surprise.”
Weber said the ceremony also brought back memories of the Vietnam War era, including three high school classmates of his who died in that war. It was an interesting time in our country’s history,” he said.

Steve Candler of Fults, a U.S. Navy veteran from 1966-1969, echoed Father Weber’s sentiments.

“It was really interesting to be a part of,” he said. “I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it home.”

Like many of those honored, Candler’s story includes not only two tours in Vietnam, but also a supporting role in one of the greatest events in U.S. history – the 1969 moon landing. Serving aboard the USS Hornet, he participated in recovering astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins after their command module, Columbia, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean following their successful mission.

Candler was one of many veterans honored Friday who found themselves at the center of history, including Army vet John Mosir, who served on a riot control response team that was put on standby in the aftermath of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the USS Pueblo Crisis with North Korea.

Don Clair, who served in the Army from 1969 to 1979, wrote a book, The Longest Monday, chronicling his participation in the attempted rescue of prisoners of war in Cambodia. And David Shilliday, a 20-year Navy pilot and flight instructor, worked closely with the servicemen who attempted the tragically unsuccessful attempt to rescue American hostages from Iran in 1980, killing eight American servicemen and one Iranian civilian.

The veterans honored included drill sergeants, Purple Heart recipients, and several career servicemen. There were female veterans honored, and military vets who went on to serve our community – Waterloo Alderman Clyde Heller, Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith, and Scott Lewis, a respected and talented local eye doctor.

While their service spans some of the most important and defining events in modern military history, the veterans honored have much in common.

“The sacrifices of our veterans have been immense, now and always,” Capt. Massey said. “This is the bond that unites all veterans and is a staple of what makes this country so great and our military so remarkable. These veterans are heroes and I’m proud that we have events like this to celebrate them.”

To view and purchase photos from Veterans Day ceremonies throughout the area, click here.

List of Veterans honored at WHS:

Veterans serving during the Vietnam War era (1962 to 1975) who were honored during a ceremony held Nov. 9 in the Waterloo High School auditorium include:

Henry Ahne, Lynn Bersche, Ron Biermann, Carol Bournstein, Dennis Brand, Ronald Braun, Rich Breitenstein, Jerry Brouhard, Steve Candler, Don Clair, Kermit Constantine, Cindy Cook, Jerry Dennison, Dan DeWilde, Ray Dugan, Robert Floerke, Dave Fortner, Dave Goeddel, Butch Gruber, Ron Hagenow, Tim Harlin, Denny Heck, August Heimos, Clyde Heller, Bob Hicks, Lyle Hoffmann, Dan Huebner, Norman Jatho, John Kessler, Rich Kinzinger, Thomas Knight, Scott Lewis, David Lutman Sr., Larry McGrady, John Meier, James Mertz, Don Moeller, James Molinari, John Mosir, Paul Mudd, Gerald Novak, Kevin O’Reilly, Robert Pelch, Terry Range, Bill Schepers, Roger Schewe, Robert Schilling, Robert Schoenborn, Gary Schremp, Fred Schmidt, Larry Schroeder, Glenn Schultheis, Dave Shilliday, Howard Shive, Tom Smith, Father Ron Weber, Brenda Wetters, Don Wetters, Larry Wild, Kenneth Wild, Leon Wirth, Robert Korves and Carlyle Knobloch.

Not present, but also honored that night, were Glenn Coats Jr., Robert Crook, Robert Eads, Rick Hoefft, Greg Musgrave, Dannie A. Pigg, Delbert Scheibe, Albert “Butch” Watters, John Allen, Ervin Borcharding, James W. Grace, Paul Huch, Richard Lammert, David Lane, Orman B. Polk, Bob Powers and Glenn Voelker.

Also recognized during the service were four men who recently returned home from Afghanistan, where they served with the Army National Guard’s 661st Engineer Company out of Sparta: Capt. Martin Massey, Joshua Massey, Joshua Bennett and Jonathan Gooch.


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Andrea F.D. Saathoff

Andrea is a graduate of Gibault High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Missouri Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Education. She lives in Columbia with her husband and their twin toddler sons. When she isn't cheering on St. Louis Cardinals baseball or riding the emotional roller coaster of Mizzou Tigers football, she enjoys attending and participating in the many family events the county has to offer. email: andrea@republictimes.net