PLAINFIELD — Duke Energy held a celebration on Friday in honor of veterans.
“Honoring veterans and those who are active is really a part of the fabric of our company,” Duke Energy Indiana President Doug Esamann said.
The Duke Energy Foundation presented Indiana National Guard Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger with a $10,000 check for the Guard Relief Fund, to help struggling soldiers and families of the Indiana National Guard.
Umbarger said Indiana has deployed more than 18,000 servicemen and women over the past decade, all around the world.
“We’ve been at war for over 10 years now,” Umbarger told the crowd at the ceremony. “What the Guard Relief Fund does is help those families of our young soldiers and airmen who’ve been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, all over the world defending our freedom and, unfortunately, some of them fall on hard times. That’s why this gift is so necessary, so needed. Over 900 Indiana guardsmen have been helped with the Indiana National Guard Relief Fund.”
The Thomas Carr Howe High School reserve training corps presented the colors and led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance while the Plainfield High School Belles et Beaux choral program performed multiple patriotic tunes during the ceremony.
The keynote speaker for the event was Earl Henry Jr., whose father was a military dentist stationed on the USS Indianapolis, which sunk July 30, 1945. Henry Sr. was one of 880 men who died in the torpedo attack. Those who survived the attack were left in the water for four days, fighting off shark attacks and fatigue.
“It’s a story that’s been told everywhere to discuss the courage and the horrors of war,” said Ken McNamara, president of the USS Indianapolis Museum. “Around 900 got off, but the sinking happened so fast, only a few life boats were released. At sun up the next morning, the shark attacks began. Some men were lost to sharks, some died of their wounds, and some just gave up hope.
“Finally, when it seemed all hope was last, a lone plane casting overhead spotted the men. Only 317 survived. That’s 880 fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins. You can’t really understand the true sacrifice of veterans until you stop and consider that.”
Henry Jr. then emotionally took the post to talk about his father.
“My father thought he should take his turn at sea and was assigned to the USS Indianapolis,” he said. “It was considered a choice assignment. He took several ships to reach the Indianapolis.”
Henry Jr. then showed slide shows of famous paintings his father would draw and send as gifts to loved ones back home, all of different bird species. He also was known for giving light-hearted bird calling shows on the ship, just to lighten the mood of the soldiers away from home. Henry Jr. said that he was grateful his father had made so much contact with his mother and other relatives, as years later it has allowed him to remember him fondly.
“I probably know about my father more than any of the other children of those lost at sea who never saw their fathers,” he said. “His letters are one of the reasons. I know so much about his personality from those letters.”
Esamann said that making sure veterans are honored is part of Duke’s ongoing mission, one he hopes that everyone this weekend takes a time out to remember.
“We have a number of current employees, family members, sons, daughters, who are serving. We appreciate veterans that have served our country, those that are here, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This is one way to celebrate what they do for us and we hope we remember that as we live our lives day in and day out with the freedoms we have as Americans.”