Robert Bradley was only 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy with his father’s signature of approval.

He served just short of a year and was a pilot; however, he would never be shipped overseas or see combat, as World War II had come to an end.

“I didn’t like that very much at the time,” Bradley, now 88, said of wanting to do his part. “I had my pilot’s license before I even had a driver’s license, so I was ready to go.”

Regardless of where or how he served, Bradley is a U.S. veteran who bravely committed service before self.

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“I feel that I was doing a job that someone had to do,” he said.

When people thank him for his service, Bradley said it’s “gratifying” to know veterans are appreciated by young and old.

“I would gladly do it again,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, Bradley and 14 other residents along with a few guests at Covered Bridge Health Campus in Seymour were recognized and honored for their military service during a special Veterans Day ceremony conducted by Our Hospice of South Central Indiana.

A group of hospice volunteers, all of whom served in the military themselves, participated in the program by presenting each local veteran with a special plaque and pin. It was the first time the ceremony had been held in Seymour.

“It’s just a very small token of our appreciation,” said retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Pillar of Columbus. “They deserve so much more than we will ever be able to do. If it weren’t for the sacrifices that you and your families have made before us, we would not have been able to do what we have done in the military.”

Pillar was joined by U.S. Marine Sgt. Nathan Floyd of North Vernon, retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Mike Brown of Columbus, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Larry Alexander of Columbus, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Francis Hughes of Columbus and retired Indiana National Guard Col. Richard Yeaton of Columbus.

The men took time to talk with each resident, allowing them to share stories of their time in the military. After pinning them, the volunteers saluted the residents.

Those honored were Bradley, Frank Burkhart, Joseph Clark, Alan Combs, Fred Criminger, Jose DeJesus, Dennis Durkoop, Ronald Fisher, Glen Hawes, Richard Hercamp, Edward Hudson, Tim Keenan, Donald Mitchell, Fergus Phillips and Jerry Shelton.

“The legacy of your service brings honor and pride to everyone who knows you,” said Shelli Burton with Our Hospice of South Central Indiana. “It is our privilege to be here with you today.”

After the ceremony, all those in attendance joined together to sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”

Originally from Puerto Rico, DeJesus, 61, served two years in the U.S. National Guard and said he felt “privileged” to be among such brave and honorable people.

He appreciated Covered Bridge and Our Hospice’s efforts to make veterans feel special.

“We have lost a lot of men and women in wars who died fighting for the U.S.,” DeJesus said. “That’s a lot of children who grew up without a father or mother or mothers and fathers who went on without their children or brothers and sisters who had to say goodbye to their siblings too soon.”

But the military was, is and will be needed to protect the United States, its people and its freedoms, he added.

“It’s a price worth paying,” he said.

At a glance

Veterans honored at Covered Bridge Health Campus in Seymour

Robert Bradley, Frank Burkhart, Joseph Clark, Alan Combs, Fred Criminger, Jose DeJesus, Dennis Durkoop, Ronald Fisher, Glen Hawes, Richard Hercamp, Edward Hudson, Tim Keenan, Donald Mitchell, Fergus Phillips and Jerry Shelton

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.