CROTHERSVILLE

Nearly 30 years have passed since Dale Schmelzle served with the U.S. Navy.

Life has come full circle for the Crothersville man because he now provides products to support the work of those serving the country.

Among the products made by his businesses in town, S-Tech Machine and Welding and Pro Series Products, are components for missile launchers used in vehicles and cages that protect electronic radio systems.

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“I am very fortunate to still have an opportunity to work with the military and help our military have some of the best equipment possible so they can do their job to protect each and every one of us,” Schmelzle said.

Schmelzle, who also is vice president of the Crothersville Community School Corp. board of trustees, was the guest speaker during Friday morning’s Veterans Day program at Crothersville Elementary School.

He served from 1983 to 1989. That service began with him learning about the military ways at boot camp in Orlando, Florida. He stayed there for a while for advanced electronics training before being transferred to Great Lakes just north of Chicago.

After more than a year there, he transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, where he served on the USS Donald B. Beary, a 438-foot-long ship that held 225 crew members.

Schmelzle was able to apply his training in electronics and weapons systems.

“The projectiles themselves shot through the gun system were 70 pounds,” he said. “There were a lot of times we had to carry these on-board down into the bottom of the ship. It got very tiresome and heavy to carry, so if you dropped one, you got a little nervous.”

The computer system included a radar that could track airplanes in the area.

Near the end of Schmelzle’s second deployment overseas, the Navy deployed cruisers, destroyers and aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea as Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi tried to claim an area as his country’s territory.

Early one morning, Schmelzle was on watch when an enemy aircraft was spotted in the area of the ship.

“Being a young kid from Crothersville, I got a little nervous,” he said. “But I was able to lock onto him, get a gun in the right direction, get the computer system up and running and got everything locked on. It was a little nerve-racking for a while, but that was my only interaction with something like that.”

Schmelzle said he also had some fun times in the Navy, including visiting sites and eating different types of food from all over the world.

He saw the pope while attending Mass in Italy, camels and pyramids in Egypt and Roman ruins and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. He also visited Cuba, Jamaica, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Monte Carlo and France.

“I was able to see and experience things that I would have never been able to see had it not been for my time spent in the service,” Schmelzle said. “There are a lot of things that you can get to experience while you are in the service.”

The Veterans Day program also featured members of Cub Scout Pack 522 presenting the colors and leading the Pledge of Allegiance, a video slideshow, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1083 demonstrating the 13 folds of the American flag, four songs by the elementary, middle and high school choirs and a prayer for those currently serving in the military.

Also, student council members read patriotic poems, and fifth-graders shared what each letter of the word “veterans” means to them and presented gifts to veterans present at the program. Those veterans also had an opportunity to go onstage and say their name, military branch and years of service and point out family members who are students at the school.

Later that morning, the public was invited to Crothersville High School’s Veterans Day program in the gymnasium, sponsored by the FFA and History Club, and VFW Post 1083 had a program at the Crothersville post.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.