“Believe it or not,” said Scott County’s retired agricultural extension agent, Bob Mehlhorn, “there is a sacrifice to serve in the military.”
Mehlhorn’s remarks, delivered to a near-capacity crowd of military veterans and supporters at the Scott County War Memorial Building in Oneida during Monday’s American Legion Veterans Day ceremony, came as he extolled the virtues of Veterans Day.
“This is a great time to celebrate what veterans have done through the years,” Mehlhorn said.
Mehlhorn, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard, was the featured speaker at Monday’s annual ceremony, and he began his address by mentioning that Veterans Day is extra special to him because on the same day 56 years ago, at about the same time he was delivering his speech Monday morning, he was on a plane from Germany to a military hospital stateside. His wife, Violet, was “very pregnant,” he said, and doctors had called him home on emergency leave because, “They weren’t sure they would be able to save them both.”
Fortunately, they were, and three hours before Mehlhorn arrived by his wife’s side, his daughter — Rosemary — was born. Rosemary Jeffers today is a nurse for the Scott County School System. She married Michael Jeffers — who, alongside his father, Donald Ray Jeffers, operates DJ’s Pitstop in Fairview — and their oldest son, Jordan, one of Bob Mehlhorn’s six grandchildren, is now boys basketball coach at Scott High School.
Following the birth of his daughter, Mehlhorn returned to Germany, where he was part of the 2nd Armored Division, a strike division that was designed to go anywhere at a moment’s notice. That year, 1963, the 2nd Armored Division had been deployed to Germany as the Berlin Wall crisis heated up.
“All us soldiers at Fort Hood knew something was going on but they never told us what,” Mehlhorn said of the weeks leading up to his deployment. “I read about it in the Knoxville Journal.”
The deployment to Germany worked so well for the Army that the following year, the 2nd Armored Division was deployed to the Mojave Desert for six months.
“The whole thing about that was to show everybody that American forces could go anywhere and do anything,” Melhorn said. “It worked, too. The Middle East was real quiet right about then, sitting over there on all their oil. That kinda put a stop to the people who had ideas about what they were going to do across the world. It worked pretty good for a little while.”
Mehlhorn spoke of the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, saying that Memorial Day is a day to honor the sacrifices of service men and women who lost their lives in war, while Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor anyone, dead or alive, who served in times of war or peace.
“When I was a kid growing up, there wasn’t a whole lot said about Memorial Day or Veterans Day,” Mehlhorn said. “Either that or I was too busy paying attention to the girls and not listening. Now there seems to be a lot more said about it. I hope from now on whoever writes the textbooks puts a lot more emphasis on it. It’s important.”