It was a very chilly morning but Central School students had warm hearts when they celebrated Veterans Day on Friday, November 10. Students began the day outside with a Rally ‘Round the Flag, which included the VFW Color Guard raising the flag and students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Call to Colors was played by Isaac Robertson, Konnor Hasselbring, and Zane Grizzle. Students continued their program inside the school with a welcome by Mrs. Smith, Central principal, followed by the presentation of Quilts of Valor by Barb Schmidt and other members of the Rock Creek Quilters’ Guild to three World War II veterans:
Vernon Bernhard Johnson served in the United States Navy during World War II. Vernon enlisted in the United States Navy on March 11, 1942. He reported to basic recruit training at the San Diego Naval Training Station in San Diego, California on April 9, 1942. On satisfactory completion of his basic training, he then reported to Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa for a sixteen week course at the new Navy training school. Vernon trained as an electrical mate, and graduated on September 25, 1942. Vernon returned to San Diego, and attended Gyro Compass School at the US Navy air station. He graduated on January 8, 1943. Vernon served two tours of duty overseas in the South Pacific during World War II. He served one year on the USS Titania, a cargo ship, and eighteen months on the invasion troopship, USS George Clymer, both in the South Pacific. Vernon achieved the rank of Electrician’s mate 1st Class and Chief. He was awarded the Asiatic Pacific ribbon with four battle stars for action at Bougainville, Guam, Saipan, and Okinawa. He was also awarded the Philippine Liberation ribbon with a bronze star for action at Leyte. Vernon was discharged from the US Navy on October 18, 1945. He relocated to Fairbury, Nebraska in November, 1945 with his late wife, Elaine. Vernon was in the electrical business here in Fairbury for over fifty years. He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Joseph “Pep” Vocelka served in the Navy/Marines. The Navy and Marines were combined at that time.He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 with his brother Frank. He took his basic training at Camp Pendleton, California. He was made a corpsman – the Navy’s name for a medic – and was assigned to the 23rd Marine Regiment. He fought in the Marshall Islands, Saipan and Tinian in the two years before Iwo Jima. He suffered shrapnel wounds at Saipan, but he bandaged himself up and returned immediately to the battle because “his men needed him.” Pep came ashore at Yellow Beach at Iwo Jima early on February 19, 1945 in the second wave of artillery attacks on Iwo Jima by the Japanese. He fought in Iwo Jima until the United States won the battle. He is an Iwo Jima survivor. For his service to his country, Pep received two Presidential citations, one navy citation, four combat stars, one Good Conduct Medal, and a Purple Heart. He was nominated for a Bronze Star, but wanted to go home, so he told them to keep it. After being honorably discharged in January 1946, he returned to Omaha to run Vocelka’s Bar with his father and brother.
Carmon L. Wheatcraft served in the United States Army Infantry in World War II for three years. Carmon was drafted in March 1943 and sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, where he took a test along with 4,000 other recruits. Carmon was one of only 200 who passed so he ended up at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He was sent to the Pacific Theater and was put on a ship to New Hebrides, south of the equator. He joined the 37th Buckeye Division. While in the Philippines, he and his fellow soldiers liberated all the prisoners on the island of Leyte. In Appari, his unit received word there was a group of Japanese soldiers who wanted to surrender. By this time, Carmon was Acting Sergeant for the machine gunners. Their group was ambushed and he was the only survivor. He was wounded, shot through the arm and stomach. He was taken to a hospital in Manila and later to Bushnell General Hospital in Brigham City, Utah. He was discharged on Feb. 7, 1946. Carmon received much recognition for his service in World War II, including a Bronze Campaign Star, a Combat Infantryman Badge, Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Victor Ribbon, Expert Infantry Award, and a Purple Heart. He served as the State Commander of the American Legion in 1989 and has remained active in the Legion. After his discharge, he returned to Jansen, married his late wife, Joan, and worked at the grocery store. Later, he bought the grocery store and several other businesses in Jansen and was also a rural mail carrier.
Seven other veterans attended and introduced themselves, sharing information about their branch of service and the years that they served.
Ms. Pahre led the Second Grade students in singing “God Bless America”. The program concluded with the entire school singing “Grand Ole Flag”.
To see pictures of our Veteran’s Day Celebration click the following: