On Veterans Day, those who served the nation’s military are remembered for the sacrifices they have made for those of us at home and giving us the freedoms we have.
Many who served did not return home, and the lives of those who didn’t are mourned and remembered. Those who died while in service are often on the minds of two veterans at the Norfolk Veterans Home when Nov. 11 rolls around every year.
“The first thing that comes to mind (on Veterans Day) is those who didn’t make it back,” Bob Simpson said.
Simpson was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1952 and served in Korea for 21 months. He now resides at the veterans home because it became increasingly difficult to care for his wife, who had a fall in their home.
Jerry Dahlkoetter enlisted in the Marines and served in Vietnam from January 1963 until January 1967. While Dahlkoetter remains proud of his time serving in the Marines, he recalls a sense of uneasiness while in Vietnam. You always had to be prepared for a surprise attack by the enemy.
“I remember one time serving as a combat engineer and we got to this one village and it was completely surrounded by rice paddies and the guy in charge instructed everybody to dig in for the night,” he said. “There was activity out there, but I figured we were in the middle of a rice paddy and the Viet Cong aren’t going to cross a rice paddy and charge the village here.
“I went to go walk by the river around and noticed that some guys had built some really nice holes, and on my way back, I found one guy with a 3- or 4-foot hole. I remember him saying, ‘You can never be too safe.’ ”
Dahlkoetter said a look at the man’s uniform revealed he was higher ranking.
“I thought, ‘If you still don’t feel safe, then I better get back and dig myself something better.”
Simpson was never in a hand-to-hand combat situation but instead primarily endured snipers and bombings. Simpson said he was fortunate that he never saw any of his friends die firsthand.
While Simpson never saw his friends die, Dahlkoetter missed the birth of his only child, a baby girl, while he was still overseas. She now has four children, with the oldest having served in the Army. Last week, Dahlkoetter’s wife received a call notifying them that their granddaughter would be home within the week, giving this Veterans Day extra special meaning.
Both Simpson and Dahlkoetter are grateful for the care they receive in Norfolk, and they hope citizens and lawmaking officials will make wise government funding decisions to provide continued care for veterans, both in Nebraska and out.
And both men — along with hundreds of thousands who served and are serving — are owed a great debt of gratitude today and every day, not just on Veterans Day.