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By Jesse Utz 

Gems in the Coulee: U.S. military veterans

Jess Shut Up


The insert in this paper, honoring the men and women who served our country, has the pictures of not only heroes in our community, but heroes that belong to our whole nation.

I will never know the hell on earth that some of these soldiers went through. Nor do I want to. But because they went through it and are still going through it, we more than likely won’t have to. The ones who know danger and possible death lie ahead of them and yet they continue to step forward, with brothers falling to the ground beside them, thinking not of themselves but of the ones who stand beside them and who stand at home waiting for their return. They do not see the danger, but see a clouded vision of red, white and blue with an eagle soaring, carrying the dream of freedom and good. They conquer the fear and keep stepping. Those are my heroes.

Men like Jerry Beierman, maybe one of the most patriotic men I know. He still has that heart for service to this day.

Men like Duane Frye. He tells some of the greatest stories about his time in an American uniform. He also came home and served some more, as a police officer and EMT; he fought for freedom and then returned to help people for whom he fought.

I could go on and on with men and women who served our country and came home and served some more. But you already know most of them and you know some I do not. They have stories, and I think it is important that we listen. Some don’t like to talk about it, but many will. There are veterans out there in our community who served in WWII. Seek them out and embrace them. They carry with them a history that is not written in any book. It is conversation that no one else can tell and every one of them has a different experience from which we can learn. I only know the names of a few of them, but there are others. Fred Long, Oroville Sharbach, Leo Levac and Elmer Rinard are the ones I know of and are some of the most honorable and humble men I think anyone will ever meet. Big hearts and hidden treasures that we must cherish and honor with the greatest respect, which they have earned.

Rich Black, Kevin Billups, Pat Zlateff, Sara Zlateff, Arnie Holt and Soy Redthunder are some other men and women who have made great sacrifices for their country, and continue to be some of the most patriotic people I know and am proud to call neighbors and friends. They also have a piece of history hidden inside them that we only have to ask about to hear. They also have earned my utmost respect, and their service to country can never be repaid.

The vets I think most about are the ones who helped shape my vision of the USA. My Grandpa Utz and Grandpa Nessly were the most American people I ever knew. I miss their stories and that is why I say to all of you, do not waste the opportunity to sit down and chat with these heroes. It starts with a “Thank you for your service,” and if you’re lucky, maybe you can get a long, drawn-out story while you stand in the grocery store. A story that you just can’t walk away from.

Veterans Day is a great day to remember those who served, but every day we should honor these men and women who not only gave a huge part of their lives to our country, but for all of our freedoms. Some gave everything for it. We live today because of their sacrifice yesterday.

And let’s not forget that, as you are reading this, there are men and women taking those same steps toward danger, even as a reflection in their eyes glimmers red, white and blue, waving in freedom’s wind.

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