I know it’s a lot to ask right in the midst of this pandemic. But can I ask you to take a minute or so to think about something close to my heart.
We are all talking about being thankful for so many people—our doctors, nurses, ems, police and fire persons—to mention a few. And we are grateful as we should be. They are the heroes among us and we salute them as best we can in these isolating times. They have taken up the fight to protect us against the coronavirus enemy that strives to take our life and liberty from us. They have put their lives on the line. They are defending our country. They are true patriots.
But there are others who have fought the battle and put their lives on the line for us all. Through the decades, they have defended our country in times of peace and war. Some still battle on but so many, due to age or infirmary, cannot. They are our nation’s veterans.
One such person is Dan Steele, Chief Warrant Officer, 3rd Class. Dan was an army veteran. He joined the army in 1946 and served for 30 years. His time in the military included the end of WWII, the Korean War and, as a member of the 509 Airborne, three tours of combat duty in Vietnam.
Maybe you remember him dressed in full military uniform, with his son Charlie, sitting patiently in front of King Kullen in Island Park or in front of Key Food or in the lobby of the Long Beach Stop and Shop. It didn’t matter if it was raining or snowing, in freezing weather or hot weather—they were there. Twice a year, a month before Veterans Day and Memorial Day, Dan took up his post to distribute poppies for donations that bought holiday gifts for our veterans who reside in VA hospitals and local nursing homes. Dan was a longtime member of the Long Beach VFW. Not long ago I met him sitting in his usual spot and we talked about the upcoming poppy distribution. He couldn’t wait to start. Duty calls and a patriot responds.
Dan Steele was husband to Clara for 61 years, father of 8, grandfather of 30 and great-grandfather of soon to be 32 grandchildren.
Dan died in a nursing home on Friday, April 3, 2020. His birthday is on the 13th. He would have been 91. He died virtually alone.
During these extraordinary times, don’t forget our country’s veterans. Many who fall critically ill now are denied seeing their families because hospitals and nursing homes are on lockdown. We cannot let this be the end of their stories. These patriots deserve full honors and respect for their sacrifice on our behalf. Once it is safe, The Long Beach VFW will hold a memorial service for veterans who have died during this pandemic. Hopefully, others will do the same.
Meanwhile, be safe by staying home and keeping your distance! And please, take a minute to remember my friend, Dan Steele, a true American Patriot!
Senior Vice President
L. B. VFW Auxiliary,