By MARY JANE SKALA Kearney Hub Staff Writer
At age 93, Jerry Pickerell still remembers the sacrifices made on D-Day 70 years ago even though he wasn’t there.
While troops landed on the beach in Normandy, he was in the U.S. Army in Texas, training recruits in the harsh realities of war.
Now a resident at Mount Carmel Home Keens Memorial at 412 W. 18th St., Pickerell received a small pin in honor of his service at a gathering at Mount Carmel Wednesday.
The pin, presented three days before Flag Day, was a gift from AseraCare Hospice at 411 Fourth Ave. AseraCare is part of a national program called We Honor Veterans, which recognizes veterans as they approach the end of their lives.
“Veterans have served their country and done well. Their effort on D-Day changed the outcome of the war. They allowed us to have this great nation” Derek Schweitzer, an AseraCare bereavement coordinator, said. “There are a lot of veterans here, and we want to thank everyone for their service to their country.”
Schweitzer then knelt down and pinned the award on Pickerell’s teal blue sweatshirt. Pickerell’s daughter, Denise Wagner of Kearney, clad in a bright red T-shirt with an American flag, leaned over and gave her father a kiss. The crowd in the dining room applauded.
Born in Kearney, Pickerell graduated from Kearney High School in 1939 and got a job in the Kearney Hub press room. In 1942, as World War II intensified, he joined the Army. He did basic training at Camp Robinson, Ark., then served in Texas and Italy.
“I was an infantry instructor. I taught men how to kill other men,” he said Wednesday after receiving his pin.
Without looking at his faded military papers that Wagner held in her hands, he added, “I served three years, three months and seven days. I was on U.S. soil for two years and two months, and on foreign soil one year, one month and eight days.” The papers confirm that he served from July 24, 1942, to October 30, 1945.
After the war, Pickerell came back to a job in the press room at the Holdrege Citizen. He worked in press rooms at David City, Superior and Geneva. At the The Nebraska Signal, he was promoted to editor (“But I didn’t get a raise”) and remained for 22 years. He and his wife, Betty, have five children, 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
Also receiving a pin from AseraCare was Wagner’s husband, Richard, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1964-68 during the Vietnam War. He worked for Eaton Corporation for 35 years. Now semi-retired, he works in the tire and lube area at Walmart.
AseraCare is active in the Nebraska Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which supports the We Honor Veterans program. AseraCare staff members attend four meetings a year that focus on providing care to veterans.
AseraCare noted that of the 1,800 veterans who die every day across America, only 4 percent die in Veterans Affairs hospitals. Ninety percent of them die at home.
AseraCare established hospice veteran partnerships in 2001 to work with VA facilities and veterans. The organization plans ceremonies, recognizes military spouses and acknowledges the service and sacrifices of veterans and their families.
Schweitzer presented six other pins to Mount Carmel residents Wednesday. He has visited other facilities here and in Callaway, Broken Bow and Alma. The ceremonies also allow families to openly thank their loved ones for military service, he said.
“We honor every veteran we have. We won’t leave any veteran unacknowledged,” he said.
Editors Note: This article is reprinted with permission from the June 15 Kearney Hub. While at The Nebraska Signal, Pickerell purchased the Bruning Banner and the family moved there in 1964. Pickerell,never worked in David City.