A World War II veteran from Crothersville had a simple message about service in the U.S. military.
“Somebody has to help protect the rest of us, and that’s what service all boils down to,” John Louis Nehrt said.
He was recognized during the opening ceremonies of the Crothersville Red, White & Blue Festival on Thursday evening in front of a crowd that gathered near the school.
Anyone who was sitting down as festival organizer Sherry Bridges read his biography stood up and clapped as he was presented a plaque for his service.
“It’s really nice,” he said of being honored. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, and I enjoy the life we’ve all had together.”
The festival honors one Crothersville veteran each year during the opening ceremonies because it goes with the festival’s theme of patriotism, Bridges said.
“We as a community are proud of their service,” she said.
As World War II veterans get older, the festival is trying to honor them.
“We’re happy to be able to salute them,” Bridges said.
The committee develops a list of veterans who could be honored and takes suggestions from the public before making a decision.
“I’ve enjoyed the Red, White & Blue Festival since it was started,” Nehrt said. “I appreciate the people that do the work to put it on and celebrate veterans.”
On Jan. 27, 1926, in Crothersville, Nehrt was born to Homer and Lillie Nehrt. When he grew up in town, he had a newspaper delivery route until he got older and worked at Morgan Packing Co. during summer break.
In 1944, he graduated from Crothersville High School and worked for American Can Co. before being drafted to the U.S. Army. He was inducted Nov. 9, 1944, and trained at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh. He then took basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and then was shipped to Germany.
By the time Nehrt reached port in France, the war had ended, but that didn’t mean he was free to return to Crothersville.
He was stationed in Grafenwöhr, Germany, as a private and eventually became a sergeant. He was a member of Battery A 288 Field Artillery Observation Battalion.
On Aug. 26, 1946, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army.
He returned home and married his wife, Clarice, and on June 21, they will celebrate 71 years of marriage. They have three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
He returned to American Can Co., where he worked for 44 years before retiring.
Bridges gets emotional each time she reads the biographies. Her voice cracked as she began to speak about Nehrt and his service.
She said the reason she gets emotional is because of the way she was raised and her family’s history of service in the military.
“I come from a family where my daddy was a veteran and my uncles were veterans on both sides of my parents’ families,” she said.
Her grandfather on her mother’s side was so anxious to serve in World War I that he lied about his age just so he could join the U.S. Navy.
Bridges said he had an American flag at his home, and when she would visit, he would teach her how to raise the flag in the morning and take it down at night.
“I always went with him, and he taught me how to fold the flag,” she said. “We may have stood there for a half-hour, but he made sure I understood and got it right, and to me, that’s where I got my patriotism.”
It’s that kind of pride that has enriched the festival since it began in 1976 to celebrate the United States’ bicentennial.
Bridges said the festival will continue to honor veterans like Nehrt each year.
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43rd annual Crothersville Red, White & Blue Festival
7:30 a.m.: FFA breakfast (FFA booth)
8 a.m.: Coed volleyball tournament (gymnasium)
8 a.m.: Three-on-three basketball tournament (gymnasium)
8 a.m.: Waterball contest registration (fire station)
9 a.m.: Booths open
9 a.m.: Waterball contest (fire station)
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Women Armed and Ready mobile unit (Preston Street)
10 a.m.: Bubble gum blowing contest
10 a.m.: Pedal tractor pull registration (Preston Street)
10:30 a.m.: Pedal tractor pull (Preston Street)
11 a.m.: Parade registration (Bard and East streets)
Noon: Pet and Bike Parade
Noon: Cowboy Posse Productions shootout
12:30 p.m.: Brian Fink
1:30 p.m.: Parade (Bard, Armstrong, Moore and Preston streets)
3 p.m.: Cowboy Posse Productions shootout
4 p.m.: The Ladds
4:40 p.m.: Colt Wienhorst
5:30 p.m.: Ko’s Martial Arts
6 p.m.: Alley Katz
8 p.m.: Southern Comfort
8:50 p.m.: Booth raffles
9 p.m.: Shiddy Half Songs Band
10 p.m.: Zambelli Fireworks Thrill in the Ville show (Bard Street Park)
10:30 p.m.: Festival closes