Senior facility honors military veterans, many for the first time

Military veterans were honored Thursday in a ceremony Thursday at Wyndmoor at Castleton. (Photo: WTHR)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Service members stand up to serve this country, knowing they may have to risk their lives.

“Unfortunately, a lot of veterans haven’t been honored for their service, especially combat veterans,” said John Futrell, who retired from the Army after serving more than two decades.

But without veterans, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms protected by our Constitution.

At the entrance of Wyndmoor at Castleton is a Wall of Honor, with the photos of nearly 30 veterans, all of whom currently reside at the senior-living facility.

On Thursday, Wyndmoor honored its residents, some of whom have never been recognized for their service.

Clyde Rogers served during one of America’s most racially-divisive eras post slavery. He wasn’t alone. More than 2.5 million black men registered for the draft during WWII, according to the National Archives.

When the race riots spilled into the campus of the segregated barracks where Rogers was stationed, he said he “laid on the bathroom floor all night long, while the blacks and whites were fighting each other, killing each other.”

At the advice of his mother, the WWII veteran “stayed away” from the hate. He says that is why he has made it 94 and a half.

“My mother was always right,” Rogers said.

Navy veteran Clois Jenkins served during the Korean War from 1951 to 1955. He describes the tensions in America during that time as “rough.” He called basic training in Illinois “alright.”

“I thought Florida was a good place but people was mean. You had to go through the back door in Florida, black people did,” he said.

Virginia wasn’t much better.

“They had dogs, n****** stay off the grass. They had signs in the yards of the city’s property,” said Jenkins.

But abroad, both Jenkins and Rogers describe a completely different experience than the one they had at home.

“Canadian people treated you like humans. Italy, they treated you like you was somebody,” said Jenkins.

Rogers, who served in “England, France and right behind the German lines” said “when I went overseas, there was no discrimination over there. I was treated like I was a person.”

But both men say the stark contrast between how they were treated at home versus abroad didn’t impact how they felt about their uniform.

Rogers said he tried to love the people who hated him, and that he prayed. Both men say they have never been honored for their years in service until now.

“It means everything to me. Thank God. I never dreamed of this so this is really, aww, beautiful to me,” said Rogers with a big smile.

“It means that somebody cares and that we were in this so that they could get this privilege,” said Jenkins.

The only female veteran to be honored during the ceremony jokingly described herself as a “rose among thorns” but when it came to how Ann McFate felt about being honored, the emotion and meaning was visible in her eyes.

An Air National Guard veteran, McFate signed up to join the military near the end of Vietnam. She remembers the horrendous way Americans treated our veterans coming home, and how some called the vets “baby killers.”

“I was proud to serve my country but I wouldn’t wear the uniform on campus,” said McFate.

She said being honored for her service makes her feel “very proud.”

All the veterans being honored said they are proud to be Americans.

Being American means “standing up for freedom and being able to speak my mind. And at 95, I gotta lot of speaking to do,” said US Army veteran Charles McDaniel, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

And it’s because of their service that we are all able to continue to enjoy those same freedoms.

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