Senior community recognizes veterans with Wall of Honor


Seated next to each other in the main hallway at Autumn Trace in Seymour, four men each received a certificate of appreciation, a red, white and blue flower and a card.

Then it was time for something even more special.

A sheet was removed from the nearby wall to show four picture frames under the words “Wall of Honor.”

The frames contain pictures of Charles Rex Fowler, Harold “Bud” Kysar and Larry Park from their military days. The other frame will have Leo Swettenam’s photo when it’s available.

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The special moment drew a round of applause from the fellow senior community residents and staff members gathered for Wednesday’s ceremony.

The unveiling occurred on an appropriate day: Veterans Day.

“We have a wall dedicated just to our veterans, and we plan to keep building this,” Executive Director Beth Melloncamp said. “We thank you guys for your service. You guys gave up a lot to do what you did. My dad was a veteran, as well, and I appreciate it. I wish he was still here today so I could show him appreciation.”

The facility opened in June, and the four men are among 28 people who currently call it home.

“You all are near and dear to my heart, whether you are a veteran or not,” Melloncamp said to the residents. “We love being a part of your life. It’s not only you’re here and we’re helping you day to day, you are family. I get up and come in here every day, I don’t feel like I come to work, and it’s very, very rewarding.”

Park, 80, described the Wall of Honor as “exceptional.”

“This is great,” the U.S. Navy veteran said. “During the Vietnam War, which was starting up in ’65, the military in uniform was spit on by civilians, and we would not wear the uniform anywhere except on base, so the recognition today means a lot to me.”

Fowler, 90, said he appreciates the tribute.

“It makes you feel good, gives you a good feeling that somebody appreciates you,” he said. “I appreciate it. It was very nice.”

Kysar, 99, said as he moves around the facility with his walker, he will look at the Wall of Honor with pride.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s very nice.”

Park is originally from Lebanon and served in the Navy from 1961 to 1965. He was in a guided missile unit at Point Mugu, California.

“It was my choice, but they were drafting people for the Cuban Missile Crisis,” he said. “That’s when I went in and joined the Navy. I joined the Navy in November and went to the San Diego boot camp, which was really nice. It was snowing then in Indiana. Out there, I was in the sun playing volleyball on the beach as a recruit. That was fun.”

Park spent a year in aviation electronics training.

“I had a very interesting service career,” he said. “I felt good about developing and experimenting with weapons. I was just an enlisted guy, but they put me with a whole bunch of scientists and engineers developing sidewinder missiles.”

He went on five different aircraft carriers to train people how to use the missiles.

“Being on an aircraft carrier is dangerous,” Park said. “Not until I got off and realized what I had done, it was a such a great experience for life.”

Fowler is from Brownstown. After graduating from Brownstown High School in 1948, he voluntarily began service with the U.S. Army.

“I signed up for Indiana University. I was determined to get a four-year degree, but my folks didn’t have the money, and I couldn’t find a job anywhere except pulling a grader on the backroads in and around Brownstown grading the gravel roads. That paid $1 an hour, so I said, ‘This is just not getting it,'” he said, smiling.

The draft was still going on, but Fowler thought he would sign up for two years and save all of his money.

“You don’t make a hell of a lot of money on recruit private pay,” he said, smiling.

He was in Korea for about two years and spent the rest of the time stateside in Kansas, Wisconsin and New York.

“I signed up for two years, and I had five days left and they called us out in formation and announced the North Koreans had attacked, and all of the people that were qualified infantrymen … marched down and were flown straight to Korea,” Fowler said.

He wound up serving five years, three months, 20 days and 18 hours. During his tenure, he was a company first sergeant, worked in fire control and field artillery and was a supply sergeant for the 7th Infantry Division and 3rd Infantry Division for the NCO Academy.

“There were so many casualties, and corporals were being made sergeants and so on, and they needed more training, so they set up a little academy to give them a little leadership training,” Fowler said. “You don’t hear about things like that, but it’s a necessity.”

Swettenam, 83, is from Vincennes. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962 to 1967.

“When I graduated from high school, there was a recession going on, and there were no jobs, and so my mother thought it would be best if I went into the military and served,” he said. “I went into the Air Force.”

He was a radio operator and served in what later became known as the 49th state, Alaska.

Kysar grew up in Seymour and graduated from Shields High School.

“I had tried to get in in ’39 after graduation of high school, and they wouldn’t take me in the Air Force because I had flat feet,” he said, smiling. “The guy that was with me, he had asthma real bad, so they wouldn’t take him.”

He worked at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh and Freeman Field in Seymour before going up to Indianapolis on Nov. 12, 1942, to join the U.S. Navy.

“I knew I would be up for draft, and the same day, my papers were in the mailbox when I got back home to be drafted,” he said. “I knew it was my time to go. My brother, he got to stay out until April of ’43.”

Kysar worked for a unit in Texas doing unloading.

“We made fairly good wages, $1.15 an hour, which was something then,” he said, smiling.

He became an electrician’s mate third class and went to school at Purdue University for three months after boot camp.

“A professor there was my high school arithmetic teacher,” he said.

Kysar was among 6,000 members of the Navy who were shipped to the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean for two years.

“There were 66 sister ships all named after rivers in Texas, and I served on the Brazos,” he said.

The day after Kysar and his shipmates arrived stateside at Treasure Island, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died.

Kysar then went to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and Virginia for electrical school. After three months there, he was sent to California and later was discharged Jan. 6, 1946.

“It was just the thing that you did for your country,” he said of what his service means to him. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

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