By Betsy Reason
Every year on this day, we honor our military veterans who have served our country.
I have attended many Veterans Day ceremonies at the Hamilton County War Memorial since I’ve been covering our local communities over the past 35 years.
I see many of the same faces every year, plus some new ones. But there are also some faces we miss.
So today, I look back at some of those faces of Hamilton County and remember some of our military veterans who have served our country, pulling from information that I learned during interviews with each of these veterans through the years.
1. World War II U.S. Navy veteran Stanley Robinson was always someone that I could count on seeing when I attended the Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.
He was a proud veteran, a past commander of the American Legion Post No. 45 and displayed the post number proudly on his Legion’s uniform cap. He would sit quietly listening to the ceremony in a metal folding chair placed in a row for veterans and their guests.
The Noblesville resident served 1932-45, including 1941-45 on the U.S.S. Moffett destroyer, he told me just before his 96th birthday, when I featured him in May 2017 as one of our Faces of Hamilton County on the front page of The Times.
I asked him, “What makes you smile?”
His reply: “To think that all of the younger people are coming to these ceremonies, I notice that they’re interested in what is going on in these ceremonies. So I’m happy about that.”
Robinson died on March 14, 2019, at age 97.
2. Don Roberts was a proud veteran who served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1962, stationed at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and served on the Aircraft Carrier Essex. He wore his white dress uniform to every Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremony on the Courthouse Square and would often share stories.
The Berlin Wall in Germany was only a month or two old when Roberts visited in the fall of 1961. Spending Christmas in Holland, his unit went through Hamburg, Germany, where he was assigned to take a special flight to Berlin, where he spent three days around the city. He owned a piece of the Berlin Wall, which he received as a gift one time, and was very proud. “It’s part of my life,” he said.
Roberts was the veteran to thank for a Veterans Day program that debuted in 2016 at Noblesville First United Methodist Church. “I don’t think that veterans have been recognized as much as they should, and I thought at church would be a good way to do it,” said Roberts, a member of the church, who came up with the idea for the service.
Roberts died Feb. 11, 2017 following a stroke on Jan. 19. He was 79.
3. Howard A. Kenley Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941 and later went to Officer Candidate School in the Army in El Paso, Texas, and served as a lieutenant. In 1943, he transferred to the Air Corps and was trained as a navigator on a Boeing B-17 aircraft bomber in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and flew 35 missions, his last mission on April 18, 1945, just 20 days before Victory in Europe Day, the end of WWII in Europe.
Kenley was awarded many combat medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and accumulated 175 points at a time when 75 points was sufficient for a discharge.
He lived a very long and prosperous life. On Veterans Day 2017, Howard Kenley Jr., at age 98, was honored for his distinguished service during a ceremony at the Hamilton County War Memorial on the Courthouse Square.
Kenley died Oct. 30, 2018, at age 99.
4. Jim Castor, who often donned his Veterans of Foreign Wars cap and a U.S. Navy jacket, served his country from 1943-45. He was still a student at Noblesville when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.
He was in the Noblesville High School class of 1945 but quit school to enlist in the military. After a month at boot camp in Chicago, the 115-pound soldier was sent out to sea, into the Pacific Ocean, into battle, and served aboard the U.S.S. Columbia.
Before that, he had never seen a body of water bigger than the White River.
In the military, he was a fireman first class in the ship’s boiler room, then recruited for a classified job in the ship’s engineering office because he knew how to use a typewriter.
During battle, his station moved to the quarterdeck to care for soldiers, administer pain shots and wrap bandages. He put dead bodies in rubber bags to bury at sea under an American flag.
“I remember the smell,” said Castor, whose ship experienced the death of seven soldiers trapped during an attack and left onboard until the ship could reach shore.
His ship was damaged in the last phases of the War in Luzon (Philippines), “where we took three Kamikaze hits,” he told me. But the ship was saved and ended up back in Guam, then Okinawa, Japan, and then was sent into the South China Sea with two destroyers, and got in a hurricane.
The U.S.S. Columbia was closer to Pearl Harbor shore than any other ship. Castor, a former commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 6246 in Noblesville, had said, “When I saw Pearl Harbor and saw the damage, I knew in my heart that we were going to whip the Japanese. We were going to end this war and end the killing and try to strike good peace.”
Castor died Feb. 23, 2021, at age 93.
5. Joe Burgess proudly served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II and was a member of the Noblesville American Legion and the 40&8 Society. While I don’t have a lot about his military service, he was the official Hamilton County historian who always had the answer for you when you wanted to know anything about local history.
He was a founding member and chairman of the 1976-established Hamilton County Cemetery Commission (which cares for neglected cemeteries established before 1850), of which he was President Emeritus this year. He also authored a book in the 1960s, “Hamilton County in the Civil War,” recognized as one of the best accounts of local soldiers in the war. In 1995, he and the late Don Roberts were the only two to read the list of Ku Klux Klan members, whose signatures were discovered in an old trunk in Noblesville; the list was of Hamilton County men who, from 1923 to 1926, paid a $10 fee to become citizens of the Invisible Empire, entering through the portal of Klan No. 42, Realm of Indiana.
Burgess died Nov. 10, 2018, at age 98.
6. Everett L. Latham, was a veteran of World War II, serving in Europe and earning two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and an Infantry Combat Badge. He was thrilled and grateful to have been able to travel to Washington, D.C. in 2015 on an Honor Flight. He was principal at Second Ward and finally at Stony Creek Elementary.
Latham died March 26, 2018, at age 93.
7. Eddie Mode, owner of the former Eddie’s Cafe in downtown Noblesville, was a U.S. Navy veteran and served in World War II and the Korean War, from 1944-54 with a two-year break between wars. “Two wars taught him how to lay his life down for others,” his daughter Sandy Ehrgott said.
Mode died Feb. 23, 2018, at age 90.
Today’s Veterans Day ceremony is at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Hamilton County War Memorial on the Courthouse Square in downtown Noblesville. Fishers’ Veterans Day ceremony is at 10 a.m. Thursday at Fishers YMCA at 9012 E 126th St. in Fishers.
Erika’s Place, the Cicero location only, is proud to announce, due to the graciousness of one of its local patrons, that all veterans, police officers and firefighters will receive their meals for free on Veterans Day, dine-in only.
For military and veterans discounts on Veterans Day today, visit https://themilitarywallet.com/veterans-day-free-meals-and-discount
-Contact Betsy Reason at firstname.lastname@example.org.