21Country: War mementos

21Alive News at 5
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 12:12 PM EDT
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NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA) - A famous general once said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

But, a group of veterans out in 21Country wants to change that by ensuring none of their fallen comrades is left behind.

America’s veterans often keep the horrors of war they lived through to themselves once they come home, but that is something one haven for vets in 21Country is trying to change.

One recent afternoon at Kendallville’s VFW Post 2749, some old soldiers and friends were enjoying a little lunch and fellowship. Many more of their comrades are also here, in spirit if not in body…their stories rest in brand-new display cases built just for the purpose.

Many of these war mementos were hidden away in closets and shoeboxes and nearly forgotten…like Jim Swartzlander’s dad, who drove a supply truck in the legendary Red Ball Express in the Second World War.

Swartzlander said his dad wrote nearly 245 letters to his grandmother while on the Red Ball Express.

Stories of soldiers like Brent Fox, a marine born in Rome City, who saw brutal combat in Vietnam. Fox made it home but lived a troubled life and died young.

He rests today in Arlington National Cemetery.

Keneth Holden served in the 505th Parachute Infantry in Europe in World War II. His story is here, and so is his grandson’s. Chief Warrant Officer Kenny Holden spent 25 years in the Army and flew helicopters in Operation Desert Storm.

The members of Post 2749 want families to save their loved ones’ war mementos and letters, bring them here, and display them in the new oak cases so other vets can hear them, talk about them, and talk a little more about themselves, share the pain they felt and still feel.

It helps them heal, we’re told, and it helps remind the rest of us just how tragic war is and how the destruction it causes continues long after the fighting’s over.

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