On Tuesday, November 11, Heritage at Milford celebrated Veterans Day by honoring residents at the facility who served in the Armed Forces. In addition, they dedicated a Veteran’s Wall and a “Missing Man” Table in recognition of those who were veterans.
“It is an honor to be recognized for my service,” said Herman “Hank” Schmidt who served more than 30 years in the United States Coast Guard. “The average person has no idea what a soldier goes through, especially in time of war.” Mr. Schmidt enlisted as an Apprentice Seaman on March 20, 1942 in Long Island. He said he had extensive experience in boating before he enlisted as his father owned boats when he was young. His experience allowed him to rise to the ranks of Chief Petty Officer in nine years.
Mr. Schmidt, who is a native of Long Island, New York, came to Delaware when he took command of the Indian River Inlet Coast Guard Station from 1968 until 1972. He retired at the end of that command and, because his family fell in love with the area, decided to remain in Delaware. He said that he had a lot of sea duty during his time in the Coast Guard and recalled one incident during World War II.
“We were on convoy duty, escorting freighters through hostile waters,” Mr. Schmidt said. “A German sub sank one of our ships in the convoy. When we got there, the freighter had sunk and there was a lot of debris. However, the German sub was still in the area. When we found it, we sank it.”
The program at Heriatge began with songs from the 1940s sung by Dawn Jones. The group of veterans and other residents of Heritage sang along with songs such as “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and others popular during the war. Heritage recognized Mr. Charles Holt and Miss Barbara Wright, both World War II Air Force Veterans; Mr. William Malayter Sr. and Mr. William Ward, World War II Navy Veterans; Mr. Roy McCullough and Mr. Richard Mootz, World War II Army Veterans and Mr. Schmidt, World War II Coast Guard Veteran.
The guest speaker at the event was Colonel Michael Berry, of the Delaware Army National Guard who was representing Major General Vavala, the Adjutant General of the Delaware Army National Guard. Colonel Berry said that he was extremely honored to be asked to speak to the veterans on a day set aside to honor them.
“Today’s battles are nothing like what these guys endured,” Colonel Berry said. “As a nation we have a responsibility to never forget those who have served our country. On this day, especially, we pause to remember the sacrifices of all who have served or are serving. From one generation to the next, they answer the call with courage and commitment.”
Colonel Berry said that he joined the National Guard as part of the University of Delaware ROTC program. He has served throughout several conflicts and, in June 2009, was called up to serve in Afghanistan. He took a unit from Delaware and spent all of 2010 in Afghanistan training and building schools, roads and other infrastructure. Colonel Berry said that when he returned home, his son was turning 17. His son came to Colonel Berry and his wife, who is also in the National Guard, and informed them that he wanted to join the armed forces. His son was sent to Afghanistan as a heavy equipment operator and served in the same city that his father had helped rebuild. His son has since returned home safely and returned to college.
“The mission of the Armed Forces, no matter what branch you are in, is to improve the lives of the people in that country,” Colonel Berry said. “The fact that all of you did so long before many of us were even born is a testament to your dedication and commitment to carrying out that mission, and we thank you.”
After Colonel Berry’s speech, Kelly Novak, Recreation Director at Heritage, read the poems “In Flander’s Field” and “Veterans Day.” She also explained what the Missing Man Table represented.
“The Missing Man Table is a strong reminder to all who witness it that we will never forget the soldiers left behind on the battlefields in foreign lands,” Ms. Novak explained. “We will always honor their service, their sacrifice for our freedom, and that we will always strive to bring them home.”
The Missing Man Table is round to show everlasting concern for missing men and women and is covered with a white tablecloth to symbolize the purity of their motives when answering the call of duty. There is a single red rose as a reminder of the missing, their loved ones and friends who keep the faith awaiting answers. The vase holding the rose is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of our continued determination to account for all who are missing. A slice of lemon on the bread plate reminds every one of the bitter fate of those captured or missing while spilled salt symbolizes the tears endured by the missing and families still seeking answers. The Bible represents the strength gained through faith and the glass on the table is inverted to symbolize their inability to share the day’s toast. The chair remains empty as they are still missing.