When “Johnny” came marching home: a Veteran’s tale

This week the country celebrated Veterans Day 2014. Who are these Americans remaining from WWII, Korea, Vietnam plus the continuing conflict in the Middle East? Over ten million American veterans returned from fighting the ‘War to end all Wars,’ WWII.

Today, per the Department of Veterans Affairs, only a little over 1,000,000 remain from that epic conflict as over 670 die every day. The median age of a WWII vet is 92 years old. I too have memories of my three brothers and two brother-in-laws who came home from serving their country with no visible signs of injury but as time passed the hidden injuries became apparent. I REMEMBER the black-outs on the west coast of our nation as the sirens blew and the shades were drawn. I REMEMBER my playmates next door that seemed to disappear without notice. The Buddhist church and school next door was eerily silent. I REMEMBER the three stars my mom placed on the front door to show we had three family members serving. I REMEMBER after 1945 the days I sat on the porch stoop waiting for the Greyhound Bus to dislodge a man in uniform. When it did I ran hoping it would be one of my brothers. I will NEVER FORGET those who have gone to faraway places and continue to do so to protect our God given rights. We must NEVER FORGET!

There are over 228,000 veterans in the State of Nevada of which 168,000 plus served in wars. Per our local Veteran Center staff and census information, approximately 4,000 vets call Mesquite home. Our large population of Veterans is fueled by the number of retirees and snowbirds who live here at various times of the year. We must not take for granted those who have served with so little fanfare. If you want to silence a Veteran who served in war ask him about his experiences, he or she will generally speak few words of the conflict they served. We honor them with the national holiday “Veteran’s Day” on November 11 of every year. This day commemorated the signing of an armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ending WWI in 1918. The first Veteran’s Day celebration was announced by President Woodrow Wilson for November 11, 1918. It did not become a legal holiday until 1938 and was called Armistice Day until 1954 when it was changed to “Veteran’s Day” to honor all veterans wherever or whenever they served.

With approximately 4,000 veterans in Mesquite it’s impossible to highlight all who served our country. However, here is a sample of our neighbors who served and continue to serve our community.

Eddie Gutierrez

World War II veteran Eddie Gutierrez 93 enlisted in 1944 in San Francisco and took his basic training in southern California. Eddie moved to Mesquite in 2007 and is active with our ‘Lady of Guadalupe’ Catholic Church.

Roger Gessell

Korean War veteran Roger Gessell moved to Mesquite in 1992 after driving a truck for 39 years. Gessell has been happily married to Doris since 1938. Gessell dropped out of high school in 1952 to join the U.S. Army. Gessell’s community activities include Scoutmaster of the local Cub Scout Troop 60. He has been active in scouting since 1942. Gessell drives a V.A. van from Mesquite to Las Vegas for the local Elks Lodge transporting veterans to their medical appointments. He is also a member of the Mesquite Veterans Honor Guard.

Chuck Caldwell

V.F.W. Post 7385 Commander Chuck Caldwell is a Vietnam vet who served with the U.S. Navy for four years. He spent two of those at Cam Ranh Bay in agent training with Forward Air Command. He and wife Tammy have been Mesquite homeowners since 2012.

Harold Straley

Forty-two-year V.F.W. life member Harold Straley and wife Pat moved to Mesquite in 1997 and has been active throughout the community with the Elks, Cub Scouts and Veterans Center. Straley served in Vietnam with the Marine Corp at Da Nang and surrounding areas. Straley received two Orders of the Purple Heart for injuries suffered in battle. Straley was named Veteran Volunteer of the Year by the Nevada State Elks Association for 2007.

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