The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 7, 2009

Giving a salute to 12 veterans

OTTUMWA — Talking with fellow veterans brought back memories.

“I was drafted during the [Korean] War for a tour of 21 months,” recalled Bill Christensen, a former corporal in military intelligence. “While I was in boot camp, they extended it to 24 months. But that was all right.”

Christensen was one of 12 residents of the Pennsylvania Place Retirement Facility who were honored Thursday for their service in the U.S. Army.

The Freedom Team Salute Program, says the Army, exists to “recognize the enduring bond between soldiers, family, community and veterans... and is a living connection to the ideals of duty, honor and patriotism.”

Don Shaffer, the southeast Iowa ambassador for the Army program and a veteran of two wars, honored residents during a presentation. In addition to the material things he gave them — a pin, a certificate and a bumper sticker — the retired chief warrant officer saluted each veteran.

“We want to honor your service,” Shaffer told them.

The memories related after the ceremony were the positive ones.

Christensen remembers being issued a badge, dressing in civilian clothes, and doing in-person background investigations on soldiers who needed Top Secret security clearance.

“What I remember most is the travel,” said Don Carpenter, a World War II veteran. “I was eventually stationed in Italy.”

But first, the Army shipped him to North Africa.

“I ended up in places I never even heard of,” he said.

Annie Collins, activity coordinator at Pennsylvania Place, said when she heard what the ambassador was looking for — Army vets — she was excited to find so many who had served.

Shaffer said the attention on the event could help draw notice from other veterans, families and supporters of the U.S. Army so he can honor them, too; privacy laws have made it tough to actually find southeast Iowa vets, he said.

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