Lester Creason nearly lost his life in Korea when his Marine unit was ambushed. He survived, wounded, by lying still on the ground. As he lie there, enemy troops walked by.
“If I’d moved, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” the Kokomo veteran told a room full of fellow vets and local officials as part of Howard County’s 2013 Military Appreciation Days opening ceremony Monday.
From the unabashed group singing of the National Anthem to stories from veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Monday’s gathering was both a kickoff and a display of the patriotism which thrives in the community.
Across Howard County, businesses and service organizations are coming together for nine days and offering a community thanks to veterans like Creason.
Put together by local veterans service organizations, the annual celebration (Nov. 2-11 this year) gives businesses a chance to offer discounts and freebies to vets and a time to assess how well the community is dealing with veterans issues.
Two years ago, the community built a house for a local wounded soldier. This year, a new housing project for homeless veterans, Jackson Street Commons, is getting set to open.
“I am humbled by this community and what they do for vets,” Kokomo Navy Gulf War vet Myles Geary said.
Ross Waltemath, the Howard County Veterans Service Officer, said it’s perhaps natural that Howard County has such a heart for vets, considering the sheer numbers of veterans in the community.
It’s hard, Waltemath said, to know exactly how many Howard County veterans there are, but said his own research indicates there may be more veterans here per capita than any other place in the state.
Officially, there are around 8,000 veterans in a county of 82,000 residents, but potentially another 2,000 veterans from Howard County are officially registered in Indianapolis and Marion because of Veterans Administration services available in those places, Waltemath said.