LETTERS

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1:57 a.m.

I was in the back seat of a cold car when two people dressed in white jumped in and started hugging everyone. Mother tells me it was her brother and sister, coming home from the Navy. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. That's my first memory of veterans.

Uncle Arthur was in the company liberating Buchenwald. He told me about the sickening sights he wouldn't forget. Uncle Harm, gunner on the USS Missouri: Running from a shower, he put a towel around his waist when they were attacked. He was on ship as Hirohito surrendered.

Uncle Carl was hesitant to talk about his naval experience. Studying World War II in my high school, I asked if he would talk to us. He told me he would tell me, and only me just once, and I should never ask him about it again. He gave me graphic descriptions as the Japanese sunk his ship. He was a survivor of the USS Indianapolis. Uncle Carl's son, cousin Tommy, was a helicopter gunner in Vietnam. Both Carl and Tommy received Purple Hearts.

My aunt, Jo, a Navy WAVE, served as a payroll officer in Florida. Never married, she suffered with Alzheimer's and I was proud to be her caregiver in her last years.

My father Tony served as an MP in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., until the military discovered he had only one eye. Somehow, he passed the entry level eye test as his record shows 20/20 vision.

My brother-in-law, Rod, had boots on the ground in Vietnam as his Iowa Army National Guard was activated. A fine family man, we're happy he returned to us.

The last family veteran is my husband, Dean. He was drafted and I was pregnant. He didn't go to Canada, he didn't protest; he accepted the responsibility. A short trip to Vietnam, he was sent to Thailand as he was screened for a Pentagon security clearance.

I am proud of my family and their service to our country.

SANDY JOHANSEN

Hot Springs Village

The people mattered

Tech. Sgt. James V. LaGrossa was a radio operator and gunner on a B-17 bomber, Dame Satan, stationed in England during World War II.

On one of the crew's bombing missions, the plane was headed to Germany. But almost to the English Channel, the orders were canceled and Dame Satan and the other planes on that mission headed back to base. Jim realized that the bomb bay's live load could turn the plane into a bomb itself, killing all aboard as it landed. So he went into the bomb bay and defused every bomb. For achievements like this in completing 25 missions, Jim received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

What mattered most to Jim was not heroics but the people with whom he flew. Jim would have turned 100 this year, but he died 17 years ago. In his final week, he talked frequently of men he had known who had died on those dangerous missions to stamp out Nazism.

JEANNE LaGROSSA

North Little Rock

A changed American

My dad was in the 101st Airborne during World War II. Instead of mentioning so many individual acts of heroism, I will emphasize something very important. After witnessing firsthand the atrocities committed by the Third Reich, he came back to this country a very changed American. From that time until the end of his life he would've protected anybody's right to take a knee to the national anthem or to burn the American flag, even if he disagreed.

He also would've stood proud with his brothers in arms while they protected the Little Rock Nine as they entered the front doors of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

His name was Private First Class James David Purifoy.

KEVIN W. PURIFOY

Little Rock

Supported by all of us

On Veterans Day, and many other days as well, I am visited by thoughts of family members and their service in the military forces of our country. Included with my father are uncles with long careers in the Army, an uncle injured on Okinawa who also lost his hearing from his artillery experience, another who lost his life when his aircraft was shot down over Europe, two brothers who joined the Navy, and a son (Marine) who served in Desert Storm.

Heroes all, they join the ranks of innumerable veterans through history, distinguished perhaps not by specific individual actions, but by readiness to serve in whatever capacity necessary, not knowing what they would sacrifice, but nonetheless supported by country and family.

DENNIS A. BERRY

Bryant

Retired but still busy

I would like to honor my favorite veteran, Senior Chief Petty Officer Fred Weilminster (IC), submarines, retired. Fred enlisted in the Navy during World War II at 17. He served two combat patrols aboard the USS Pintado. After the war he served on the USS Becuna, then went to "nuke" school and was on the commissioning crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln. He then served on other ballistic missile and attack-class boats. After retiring, he worked for the state of California.

Now he volunteers for RSVP, makes toys for Children's Hospital, and is a volunteer at the Arkansas Maritime Museum--at 93 years young! Most importantly, he's my father.

BRUCE DART

Stuttgart

Excellent role model

I would like to honor one of America's proudest veterans, my father, Charles D. Lovelady. He is 91 years young and a retired colonel in the Army.

He is an amazing man and I am so proud of him, his military career, his devotion to his family, and his unwavering faith in God. What a blessing to have been raised in a Christian home by him and my mother. Dad is still active in the Military Officers Association and our church.

I couldn't have asked for a better role model. He is my hero and has been my entire life. Thank you, Dad, for your service to this great country. God bless you always. I love you.

KATHY LOVELADY KENTER

Pine Bluff

Nine brothers served

Nine brothers from the Williams family of Pine Bluff served in the military (all U.S. Army enlisted soldiers) between 1962-2005. Six retired with 20 or more years, and three served between six and nine years. Their ranks range from specialist to command sergeant major. All but three of the brothers are still living.

Total active-duty service combined is 152 years, spanning over four decades, and covering several conflicts and wars. My personal feelings are that these brothers should be recognized at least by the state of Arkansas for the service provided to our country. I often wonder if this could be a record in military history or even the Guinness Book of World Records.

Thank you for the opportunity to honor veterans!

RICKEY WILLIAMS

Sherwood

Backbone of nation

Military service runs deep in my family. My grandfather was killed in World War I, my dad served for 20-plus years in the U.S. Army, making the Normandy invasion and serving in Korea. He was wounded twice. I spent 24 years, active-duty and Arkansas Army National Guard, going to Desert Storm in the process. Both of my brothers, my son-in-law, his dad all served in the military.

I may have gotten older and my perspective on things may have changed some, but my devotion to my country will only grow stronger. Veterans are the backbone of this nation. God bless them all for their service to this great nation.

MIKE HUGHES

Sherwood

A painful memory

My father, James Caldwell, was a World War II veteran. While he was serving in the Navy, my 2½-year-old brother died (my brother and I were not born yet). My mother sent him a telegram telling him; he was not allowed to come home.

When he died in 2007, I found in his billfold the telegram my mother sent him; it stated, "James, Elizabeth said your son died." I still have it; it is now about 75 years old. I don't recall my dad ever talking to me or my brother about our brother. Perhaps it was just too painful.

SHIRLEY HENDRICKS

Maumelle

Fine warriors, citizens

At about 21 years old, my brother, Harold Ringgold, went to training and on to serving far from home. He was a Marine in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. When he returned home in August 1969, I was at the airport to meet him with other family members. No fanfare, no protests that I remember. We were just so glad he came home.

He married and started working, raising a family and surviving. We stayed in touch with holiday gatherings and family reunions. Later he sought treatment for health issues and then PTSD. In the last year of his life, he lived with me and managed to get through some health challenges and was ready to resume independent living when he suddenly died. During that year, I became more aware of his struggles.

While he lived with me, he fixed several things I only mentioned were a need. I think of him each time I turn on that utility light in my laundry room and every time I make cornbread. He loved cornbread and if there was any left after supper, it became the victim of a late-night snack. I wondered if he ever slept as I often heard him moving around the house.

He loved and was proud of his children and grandchildren. He had friends in many different circles, although he was a country boy at heart. Recently I met a young woman who told me that he had helped her move and later helped with a yard project. I have seen him sit and talk with a World War II veteran and thank him for his service.

Other service members I have met at church or in the community have been examples of fine warriors and good citizens. To all service members and their families, I humbly thank you.

BERTHA SIMS

North Little Rock

Put it all on the line

Thanks to the Voices page for again dedicating a day to our veterans. Since I honored my World War II vet parents last year, this year I want to remember some friends.

From the Vietnam Era, Air Force veteran Dave Elswick and Navy veteran Mike Whitson would probably agree with each other on nothing in politics, but they are both great Americans, wonderful people, and men I am grateful to call my friends. My late friend and brother Ken Hutchinson (who has been published on this page before) lied about his age to get into the Korean War. He died about 50 years later of complications from the surgery to remove shrapnel he had carried all that time.

Some sacrifices take place over a very long time. God bless all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who put it all on the line for the rest of us.

KARL T. KIMBALL

Little Rock

Editorial on 11/11/2017