Submitted by Jenny Johnson Manuel
On Thursday, The Johnson County Senior Center honored its Veterans with lunch and a Christmas Program at the Veterans Café. A special program and a poem were read by Kathy Motsinger, Director of the Senior Center.
A representative associated with Veteran Care spoke on palliative and hospice care for those veterans facing illness and nearing the end of their lives.
Veterans were represented from all branches of the service. All veterans were asked to share a Christmas memory. Their stories were quite varied and gave a glimpse of what it was to be stationed many miles away from home at Christmas.
Don Payne said he joined the Navy in 1950. He served from 1950 until 1972 on active duty and then eight years in the fleet reserve, giving him a total of 30 years of service. It was Christmas in the 1950s when Payne was aboard the USS Pritchett, a deystroyer, patrolling the China Sea. There were no Christmas trees or access to get one, so he decided to make one.
He worked in the Shipfitters shop, so he had access to a metal pipe about six feet long. He used welding rods and attached them to the metal pipe in the form of a tree.
Then he found anything that was white to cover the rods. He used scissors to cut strips of white paper and even used toilet paper for decorations and set it up in the mess hall. There were no presents underneath, but 300 sailors enjoyed a White Christmas Tree as they ate their Christmas dinner.
John Davis served in the US Army from 1962 through March of 1965. He was stationed at Landstuhl Germany, where his wife Betty joined him, and they were blessed in March of 1964 with a baby daughter named Frances. At Christmastime, they waited until the 10-month-old baby went to sleep before they hung a stocking full of chocolate and other goodies on her crib. Frances awoke before her parents on Christmas morning, and when they found her, she was standing at the end of her crib covered from head to toe in chocolate. John said they had a German landlord who was extra special to them and shared produce from their garden and other baked goods. When it came time to leave Germany, he applied for space available on a troopship for his wife and daughter, and they were able to return to the states for $33.00.
Another veteran shared he was in the US Air Force came home for leave in December 1953, got married on December 10, and in 2019 celebrated 66 years of marriage.At the end of the program, special gifts were given to all Veterans, along with many many thanks for their service.
To all Veterans of all branches, we thank you for your service, your bravery, and the example you set for us all.