By Tom Davis, Vice President, Susan Davis International

One hundred and fifty years ago, give or take, one of the more colorful characters who populated a little town in northern Wisconsin was a one-eyed Irish civil war veteran.

John Keefe, born in Roscommon, Ireland, in 1809, enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 52. Badly wounded at the battle of Shiloh, he came home disfigured but undaunted. When he passed away at the age of 92, his epilogue included this “He was an old Irish gentleman of the most pronounced ideas of what individual responsibility means…”

When I was young, my hometown had an American Legion post. The post, like other American Legion posts, was named after a deceased veteran. Sigurd Leopold Bohnsdahl, who joined the Navy during World War I, and died at the age of 20, lived on through his name on American Legion Post 107. Frank J. Myers is remembered more succinctly. Wisconsin’s Gold Star List contains this entry: Frank J. Myers; 22, Mosinee; b. Carson, Portage Co.; Pvt. 130inf; kia Aug. 18, ’18. Cited for bravery.

My father, Edward L. (Pooch) Davis, was a member of an elite Army Ranger battalion-Darby’s Rangers—during World War II.  My Uncle Johnny served in the 9th Armored Division and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. His son, cousin Jack, served in Vietnam, returned safely, and now serves on the VFW honor squad, firing volleys over other veterans whose time has come.

First Lt. Charles Sylvester Beranek did not return safely. On June 14, 1968, having completed his tour of duty, Lt. Beranek said goodbye to his team. He was waiting on the helicopter pad when mortar rounds struck the area. Lt. Beranek is memorialized on the Wall of Faces at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Panel 57W, Line 16.

Our doctor, our dentist, our mailman, our barber, all served their nation. Our butcher’s daughter became a brigadier general, and Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. A local star running back joined the Marines and went to Vietnam. Mill workers, farmers, truck drivers answered the call to duty, carried out their responsibilities, and returned to strengthen the fabric of the community.

Stretching back as far as the Civil War, the little town where I grew up has sent its sons and daughters off when the nation called. There are about 20,000 other cities, towns and villages in the United States. Many are far larger than my little hometown, but most are of somewhat similar size.

All, large, medium, small, have their own veteran stories. If you don’t know yours, take a few minutes to learn.

It’s a rich history, worthy of thinking about this Veterans Day. The nation has benefitted immeasurably from generations of men and women who, like old John Keefe, shared “the most pronounced ideas of what individual responsibility means…”