MORRIS – On the front of the Grundy County courthouse to the right of the stairs is a 99 year old plaque commemorating a war that ended 100 years ago this Sunday, Nov. 11.
“In honor of the men of Grundy County who died in service in the Great War for democracy that peace might reign in the world.”
Veteran’s Day will be celebrated throughout the nation this Sunday. Beyond it’s connection to the First World War, the day has meaning for veterans across Grundy County.
Bill Moore’s parents were upset when his number was posted on the draft board of the post office. It was 1966 and Moore was only 20 years old.
“They didn’t like it,” Moore said, “but they knew it was my duty.”
As for Moore himself, he said that he knew he was going to be drafted eventually. As he waited for the train that would take him to Chicago for the first leg of his journey, a family friend named Mickey Davis handed him $20 and told him good luck.
Moore completed his army training and was sent to the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. He said he remembers night alarms where his mortar crew would rush to get into position in case the enemy was attacking. He also remembers the derogatory messages the North Koreans would blast on speakers in English to try and break their morale.
Moore said he tried to get his commander to transfer him to the combat zone in Vietnam so that he could start making $100 more a month.
“I’m lucky my commander said no,” he said.
Tom Borchelt, a member of the Morris Color Guard that attends military funerals, said he still remembers the first time he went to one.
“[It] just brought tears to my eyes when taps started playing,” Borchelt said, “I was so appreciative for our veterans and their sacrifices.”
During the same time that Moore was stationed in Korea, Borchelt was serving in the navy on the USS America aircraft carrier off the Vietnamese coast. Borchelt said he remembers planes coming back all banged up from enemy fire. One aircraft was so damaged it couldn’t land properly and had to be retrieved off of the safety net the crew put up for landings.
Borchelt said it wasn’t uncommon for him and the other crew members to stay awake for 72 hours straight during bombing runs. He said the round the clock job made him forget about the time.
“We’d work and then eat and then work some more,” Borchelt said.
One time during a break from the fighting, the America was visiting the Philippines and Borchelt was excited to leave the ship and see the country. He fell asleep on the way there and slept for 24 hours straight. When he woke, the ship had already left.
Art Leach also served on an aircraft carrier and visited the Philippines, but it was during an earlier war.
As a fighter pilot aboard the USS Yorktown in 1944, Leach saw action above the Philippines; Formosa, now Taiwan; Okinawa and Hong Kong. He received the Distinguished Air Cross along with other awards.
Leach said he believes every young person, man and woman, should spend time in the armed services.
“It teaches patriotism, independence and how to take care of yourself,” Leach said. After the war from 1946 to 1981, Leach worked at Morris Building and Loan.
Elton L. Monson served in the Marine Corps from 1953 to 1955. During that time he was stationed in Japan and participated in war games in Okinawa. Monson said that nothing is more important than taking care of our veterans.
“Our freedom doesn’t come from politicians, it comes from our veterans,” Monson said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t even be here.”
Moore said when he first arrived home from service during the Vietnam era, he didn’t feel appreciated due to the anti-war sentiment of the time.
“When you came home you wanted to take your uniform off right away,” Moore said. He said Veterans Day is important to let veterans know society values them.
“It means a lot to be appreciated,” Moore said.
Borchelt put the meaning of Veteran’s Day simply.
“To remember all the veterans who served and died for our freedom,” Borchelt said.