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Standing tall for vets

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Memories of local veterans given full attention at Veterans Day event Thursday
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneVeterans salute the U.S Flag Thursday during a ceremony at Rogue Valley Manor.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRetired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lannette Moutos talks Thursday about her time in the military after a ceremony at Rogue Valley Manor.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRetired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Stanley Luther talks Thursday about his experience during the Cuban missile crisis.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneA Marine color guard is seen during a Veterans Day ceremony Thursday at Rogue Valley Manor.

More than 100 veterans live at Rogue Valley Manor, and their service was on full display Thursday during ceremonies to commemorate Veterans Day.

Many of those former service members watched the ceremony from inside the Manor’s auditorium. Seating was limited inside because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, but their loved ones were able to watch a live television feed. A large number of them sat in an adjacent common area and watched the broadcast.

It was a brief, but meaningful event. The local U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard presented a flag ceremony and performer Lynda Day sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Medford City Councilor Kevin Stine, who served in the U.S. Navy and is still a reservist, said his nine years in the service, which included three submarine deployments, were impactful and provided “countless memories I’ll keep with me forever.”

Veterans often reach out to those who are on active duty, Stine said. While he was serving, a group of submarine veterans who had served during World War II talked to the younger men and women about the challenges they faced decades before.

For example, when their submarine was under attack by the Japanese Navy during World War II, they had to turn off the fans inside of the sub to avoid being detected by the enemy because the devices made too much noise.

“They had to live in 120-degree heat. Those kinds of stories stuck with me,” Stine said. “Now I share my stories.”

He brought one of his uniforms with him Thursday, a Navy work uniform, and it was hanging next to him. He smiled as he referred to it by its popular name, “Crackerjack,” which was inspired by the sailor on advertisements for the popcorn-and-peanut snack “Cracker Jacks.”

“We have military ribbons and medals that serve as a resume of what we did,” Stine explained.

While uniforms and even the smallest apparel details have meaning, they don’t tell the whole story of each person’s military service.

And each veteran has the ultimate control of how — and if — their story is told. Whether those stories are memorable or traumatic, the experience “stays with you forever,” he stressed.

One of the residents thanked the veterans for their service and went on to explain why she was profoundly grateful: The Normandy invasion of World War II that began June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day.

This massive landing on Normandy by American, British and Canadian armed forces led to the liberation of all of Northern France by the end of August 1944, and ultimately led to the retreat of the invaders and the end of the war in Europe.

Madeline Kroner was in France on D-Day. On Thursday, she thanked all Americans and especially the people who participated in D-Day.

“This is my first chance to say ‘thank you’ in person,” Kroner said in a still-noticeable French accent. “Have a beautiful day. Merci.”

Some of the veterans who attended were eager to talk about their experiences.

Stanley Luther served in the Navy and U.S. Air Force and had a military career that spanned more than 30 years. The GI Bill helped him earn a degree in physics and an MBA.

He retired as a lieutenant colonel and spent years flying military aircraft.

“I’m proud of my career,” said Luther, 94, with a smile on his face. He still flies with an instructor and wore his military uniform for the occasion. It fit perfectly. “Guys who stay in a long time are patriotic.”

And they want to help their country, he emphasized.

Luther’s most memorable experience was during the Cold War, when he and other pilots were sent to protect a Midwestern military base as the Cuban Missile Crisis raged during the fall of 1962.

They were highly armed and prepared to defend the base, which was considered an important strategic location by the Pentagon, but the group of pilots was having a hard time finding a place to stay with such potentially dangerous equipment such as a variety of bombs, he said.

The people who operated the municipal airport the next state over, where the group stayed as they waited for potential trouble from the Russians or the Cubans, “took us in,” Luther said.

They had meals, a place to sleep and even had access to a telephone. It was comforting at an extremely uncomfortable time, he remembered.

Lannette Moutos, a USAF lieutenant colonel, served during the 1970s and ’80s. She joined simply because she needed a job.

Moutos, 72, started off as a line officer, then administrative officer. After eight years in service, she ended up in Cairo, Egypt, for temporary duty. There she met her husband, Gus, who was in the U.S. Army.

She stayed on as a reservist and studied law, eventually becoming a lawyer and working for the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She spent some time working as a civilian lawyer, but the work on claims was “black-and-white” compared with the “technicolor” experiences she had in the military.

Not only was the work more interesting. Moutos ended up as chief lawyer for the USAF’s largest reserve wing at Travis Air Force Base and retired from that position.

Gus Moutos, Lannette’s husband of more than 40 years, died this past August at age 89 and was given a full military burial.

Lannette and Gus used to attend Veterans Day events together. Her plan after the ceremony was to grab a fast-food lunch and enjoy time at her husband’s graveside in the Eagle Point National Cemetery so they could spend a portion of this Veterans Day together, she added.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at tharber@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.