When the security of America is in jeopardy we are blessed to have five branches of heroes to defend us. Veterans Day gives us a time to thank those heroes and all who have served for the risk they took and the sacrifices they made.
The Valparaiso Noon Kiwanis Club honors them with a luncheon and veteran speaker every year.
“Everyone who comes here today is being recognized as a veteran,” said Lenny Corso, Chairman of the Kiwanis Veteran’s Day Committee and a Green Beret Medic with the Army during the Vietnam War. “So few people serve in the military anymore. We’re starting to forget the accomplishments of veterans of the past.”
This was Corso’s first year running the luncheon, after a 25 year reign by Kiwanis President Jon Groth. He chose Veteran Lt. David Phillips of the United States Army as the keynote speaker.
“I am a very proud veteran,” said Lt. Phillips. He was eager to share his story with his fellow brethren. “This is my holiday where my pride just bubbles up. Everybody likes war stories. American people like to be winners.”
Ray Peek, another Army Veteran, agreed on the importance of veterans sharing their stories. “I think we need to try to pass on some values to the younger generations. It doesn’t seem like they know the sacrifices we made.”
Lt. Phillips served during the Vietnam War. He spent nine months as Infantry Platoon Leader in the 25th Infantry Division, a longer term than anyone had ever served. The life expectancy in that position is just not that long.
His story included moments he can look back on with humor, like the time his whole squadron had to turn back during a march because someone forgot his rifle at the last camp. It talked about fear and challenge, but also camaraderie.
“I was good,” Lt. Phillips said. “I kept people alive and that was my whole mission. I wasn’t there to win the war; after one month I knew I couldn’t. But I could keep people alive.”
Of the 120 infantrymen he led into war zones, Lt. Phillips only lost one.
His valor earned him four Bronze Stars and two Army Commendation Medals. Lt. Phillips was given a Purple Heart for his injuries, 4 Air Medals, and a place in the Army Officer’s Candidate Hall of Fame.
The feather pin on his shoulder was given by a chief in Cambodia. The chief came to Lt. Phillips for help when his daughter triggered a landmine, even though they were supposed to be enemies. Fighting in Cambodia was the harshest conditions his men had faced yet, but he stopped. He went into the field and retrieved the girl. He had his medics fix her up. When Lt. Phillips returned her to her father, the chief gave him the pin given to each chief in Cambodia.
Lt. Phillips stories are unique to him but they resonated with everyone in the room. They smiled, they laughed. They recalled their own trials and tribulations with the United States military.
“We gave our time,” said Groth, who served with the Army. “I didn’t give blood, I didn’t die, like many others did. But I volunteered to risk my life. It was a big step. I think everyone should serve, we’d be a better country for it.”