Where devotion to country flourishes

I’m always awed by the patriotism of older Americans, especially at veterans events.

On Saturday, at the annual banquet of Lehigh Valley Chapter 190, Military Order of the Purple Heart, I looked around during the playing of taps and saw aging warriors in their service caps, some in their 90s, standing as straight as they could and saluting. Earlier they stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and sang “God Bless America.”

Old-fashioned? Yeah, I guess so. Corny? No.

I’ve been going to the Purple Heart banquets in Fullerton since 2003, missing only one for a family wedding. Naturally, there was a more robust crowd back then, many of them World War II vets who were still doing all right health-wise. But there are far fewer now.

Some of the chapter’s members became subjects of my series “War Stories: In Their Own Words,” among them Woody Woods, Charlie Kowalchuk and Whitey Eschbach, who have since died. Others, like Joe Motil, are still going strong. Joe is 93 and still works on the Williams Township farmland he grew up on.

The backbone of the Purple Heart chapter now is a core of Korean and Vietnam War vets. They seem no less passionate about their country than the World War II guys.

In a nod to frailty, the banquet’s program focused on benefits available to survivors of veterans. The speaker was Dale Derr, director of veterans affairs in Berks County, where 800 veterans die each year. He said most survivors don’t know what benefits they’re entitled to, and told how the feds, the state and counties can help.

Groups like the Purple Heart chapter provide vets and their families a venue for camaraderie and purpose. For an outsider like me, it’s inspiring to witness their spirit and devotion to country.

2 responses to “Where devotion to country flourishes

  1. Gregg Heilman

    Allentown has been my home since my birth in 1948. Growing up so soon after the war I quickly realized that every father, including my own father, was a WWII Veteran on our street. We had three World War One Veterans of which two were new arrivals to the United States after WWI. Both worked making trucks for the their new Nation at Mack Trucks as proud NEW US Citizens. We had Veteran fathers from every branch and theater of war on our street. NO ONE MISSED A VETERANS DAY OR MEMORIAL DAY Celebration. We often walked up as a group and sat together in the area of Howard and Hamilton Streets. A number of our teachers in the Shop Course were WWII Veterans.

    Mr. Morton Sherr told us he expected to see and hear us all when he marched with his Jewish Veterans Unit of of WWII. HE WAS A PROUD AMERICAN. The School District dearly needs to honor this man with the naming of some new structure after him.

    Now we no longer have any WWII Veterans on the street, or even living. The street and the neighborhood has changed. Few even are familiar with WWII. Even fewer, if any, are Veterans of our US Armed Services.



  2. Gregg Heilman

    I know you have to know Robert Kauffman who wrote his own book “THE REPLACEMENT”.

    Bob and I attended the same church for some years, we had a number of WWII Veterans at the same church.

    I was a group leader for a Bible Study Group that went into Lehigh Co. Prison and I did for nearly 14 years.

    Robert and the several other WWII Veterans accepted my request to help with our group, we were in dear need of additional help.

    Bob would use his experiences in WWII at times with his lesson on the nights he came into the prison. A couple others did this as well. They went from High School to the FRONT LINES OF WORLD WAR TWO.

    I was so blessed to learn more of my Lord through these great Veterans. They had NO doubt HE who got them through the war. To use their experiences of how only God could have brought them the victory or kept them a live under impossible conditions was wonderful.

    I will carry their experiences and great faith in their Lord with me in my heart and soul until the day I am called home.

    As our WWII Veterans are called home, and it is a great loss to all of us, we are also going to miss their great faith in our LORD. They lived their lives as soldiers and citizens through their LORD, without them our country is headed for some hard times.


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