Wilmette, Community

‘True Appreciation’: Veterans Day ceremony praises service and sacrifice of local veterans

As the American flag was slowly raised Friday morning in the front courtyard outside Vi at The Glen, World War II and Korean War veteran Robert Anthony stood at attention and briskly saluted in silent respect for fallen comrades.

Anthony was in the Navy from 1944-1946 and served as a radar man on an attack transport in the Pacific, where they supported troops battling on the Philippines, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima.

“I went into the Navy right from high school, and I remember all my friends who went in before and after me and never came home,” he said.

Five years later, when the Korean War erupted, Anthony joined the Army and served for three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where as a company commander he trained new recruits. 

“Some of them didn’t come home either,” said Anthony, 97, who worked in the railroad industry, and is one of four World War II veterans and six Korean War veterans living at the Vi. “Today, Veterans Day, is my way of remembering all those guys and paying tribute to them.”

As they do every year, Vi went all out to honor the nearly four dozen Vi residents, who constitute 40 percent of the men living at Vi at the Golden, and 41 million men and women across America who have served in the military over the course of the nation’s history. Following the flag raising ceremony, which was attended by 75 residents, the commemoration continued with a special coffee hour; happy hour; a display of original veterans’ photos, uniforms, and artifacts in the community living room; and a “mess hall” lunch featuring every GI’s favorite, creamed chipped beef on toast, affectionately known as SOS, served with Vi flair.

Vi at The Glen’s Executive Director Carrie Schroeder said, “Veterans Day is an important day at the community where we can all come together to honor those who served, reflect on the past, share stories and show true appreciation for the sacrifices that were made.”

Ron Halper (left), formerly of Wilmette and Winnetka, and Robert Anthony, who served during World War II and in Korea, salute the flat during Vi at the Glen’s ceremony.

Ron Halper is one of the 10 Vietnam War-era veterans living at Vi. He served in the Navy from 1963-1968 and was a boat commander and crypto security officer on an LSD that carried tanks, howitzers and Marines and made landings in Hue, Da Nang and Chu Lai. 

Unlike many of his fellow soldiers, “I never had a particular problem coming back,” said Halper, 82, a former Winnetka and Wilmette resident who ran a paper and secondary fiber brokerage company in Chicago. “I was accepted at corporations and interviews. They were accepting of my service and appreciated it.”

Howard Goffen, who served in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps in Fort Lee and Fort Sheridan from 1960 to 1965, made the point that a knowledge of history and a clear public vision of America’s place in the world matters. “If we don’t learn from history, we are bound to make the same mistakes,” said the former Highland Park resident and retired attorney, 88, who prepared documents for courts-martial. “It is important to go forward, to defend the principles that America was founded on.”

“I’m a patriot and a big defense guy. We have to do everything we can to preserve the world,” said former Wilmette resident David Berlinghof, 90, who served from 1955 to 1957 in the Army’s Transportation Corps, where following four years in ROTC he became a second lieutenant and was a commander of his company at Fort Eustis, then was made a first lieutenant in the Panama Canal Zone. “We must be a strong country.” 

A recent poll said that an all-time high 55 percent of Americans believe Veterans Day is one of America’s most important holidays. It is praise well deserved and not surprising, said former Wilmette resident and retired bank examiner Art Sutton, 77, who served in the Army from 1970 to 1972 and spent a year in the Army’s finance department based in Saigon. 

“When we came back, we were told throw your duffle bag in the back of your closet and forget you were there,” Sutton said. “Now, when I wear my veteran hat people say, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

More importantly, military service afforded soldiers a host of intangible benefits, Sutton said.

“We served our country. We didn’t ask much in return. Even if you were drafted you went in and you did your job and you left with pride. And they made men out of boys. They toughened you up mentally and physically to deal with the real world.”

And then, from Sutton, there was this wisdom: “I saw a cartoon once: If you can read, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”

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Alan P. Henry

Alan P. Henry is a New York Times bestselling author, six-time national fiction contest prize winner, and 35-year newspaper veteran with the Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, 22nd Century Media and The Record.

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