MISHAWAKA - Helen Rudoleh beamed as she posed for a picture with the handsome young soldier.
Her brothers fought in World War II, “in Italy and China,” she said, and Rudoleh herself served with the Red Cross in Mishawaka, aiding soldiers who returned home from World War II.
“I know what it means,” Rudoleh said, still smiling from the photo shoot with the soldier in camouflage. “I love to watch TV when they come home to their families.
“It meant a lot to me to see these young men today.”
The “young men,” a group of U.S. Army soldiers from St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, were greeted with cheers when they walked into the Veterans Day “USO Dance” Friday afternoon at Tanglewood Trace.
Then it was party time. The band played oldies from the World War II era, before breaking into a medley of patriotic songs - including “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
Some of the young soldiers took to the senior center’s dance floor with female residents.
War veterans, like Chick Maggioli, who earned a Purple Heart fighting with the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa during World War II, could be identified by a red-flowered boutonniere pinned to the lapel.
“I thought it was very nice to meet some of the young people who were in the war,” Maggioli said.
“It makes you feel real good,” added U.S. Army veteran Ed Salyer, who not only celebrated Veterans Day Friday, but also his 84th birthday. “I’m glad to see they’re protecting our country.”
Cpl. Gary Jaworski and Staff Sgt. Jerry Nenycz served in Afghanistan, while Sgt. Ryan Barnes, of Plymouth, fought in Iraq.
“It does mean a lot ... to see them and see them happy to see us,” Barnes said. “They went through the same thing, and now they’re glad to see us following in their footsteps.”
While Salyer was drafted in the Army and served post-war right after World War II ended in 1945, he did spend his share of time attending USO dances back in the day.
Salyer chuckled when asked for a comparison.
“There’s no comparison,” he said. “I was a little bit younger then.”
Staff writer Jeff Harrell: