Butch proud of his family’s veterans

By Butch Dale

Veteran’s Day is a special day in which we give thanks to the men and women who served our country in the military. This week I started thinking about all of my relatives who served in the armed forces. On my Dad’s side of the family, three out of my five uncles were in the armed forces. On my Mom’s side, all five of my uncles joined the military after high school. Five of my first cousins served in the military, with one making the Navy his life’s career.

My Dad was a high school senior when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. His class gathered around a radio in the study hall and listened as President Roosevelt declared war on Japan that next day. Dad told me that he knew his life was about to change. In May of 1942, he graduated as valedictorian of his class . . . and a few months later he was a member of the U.S. Army. When I was young, I used to wear his army helmet . . . and armed with my Red Ryder B-B rifle . . . pretended I was fighting Nazis in our backyard. Like most of the men in the Darlington community, Dad never really talked much about his experiences in WWII. It wasn’t until I was teaching school that I learned that Dad was a platoon sergeant and had been a member of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army. He had fought in France, Belgium and Germany . . . including the Battle of the Bulge. He had seen death and suffering firsthand, and when he returned home he just didn’t want to talk about it.

The military hero in our immediate family is our son, Clark Dale. After our country was attacked on 9-11, he wanted to do his part, and he joined the Army without hesitation. He was trained in the 509th Army Airborne as a paratrooper, and also trained with the 75th Rangers. When he was sent to Iraq, he searched door to door for insurgents, always anticipating the enemy inside was armed and ready to kill anyone who entered. Later on Clark manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a Humvee while patrolling the area around Baghdad. I can tell you this, Sgt. Clark Dale had nerves of steel. We prayed for his safety, and we were so glad he made it back home safe and sound. Many of his fellow soldiers did not.

After his service, Clark graduated from Texas Tech and Indiana State and now works as a broker for Hive Realty and helps manage our farm.

If you look up the definition of “veteran” in the dictionary, it states “a person of long experience in some service or position.” Of course, most people think first of our military veterans, but it can include others who serve their country in other ways. With this in mind, I will tell you about my other three children. Our two hero “police veterans” are our other two boys who served their country in law enforcement. Our oldest boy, Neil Dale, a Purdue graduate, retired two years ago after serving 25 years as a Lafayette police officer. Starting as a patrolman, he rose up through the ranks and ended his career as Captain in charge of the entire patrol division. Neil is now the director of the Columbian Park Zoo.

Our youngest son, Brett Dale, graduated from Ivy Tech and began his career as a jail officer, and now serves as a police officer in Frankfort. He is also a member of the SWAT team, so yes, we do worry about him. Although not members of the military, these two also have faced many stressful and dangerous situations.

Our only daughter, Shelle Norman, is our hero “teacher veteran.” After graduating from Purdue, she has served our community as a teacher at Southmont for the past 20 years. No, her job isn’t dangerous, but it is somewhat stressful, as many of you fellow teachers will agree, and we are very proud of all she has done to educate our youth and keep them on the right track for success. Shelle is a hard worker and very compassionate and understanding with her students.

I have always felt a little disappointed in myself that I did not serve in the military. When I graduated from Purdue, the Vietnam War was winding down, and we had just welcomed our first child. I tried to make up for it by serving as a teacher, police officer and County Sheriff for most of my life . . . plus many years as a library director (as a second job) in our little town. My wife worked as a teacher’s aide, and she has also been the Chief Matron at the Sheriff’s Department for 17 years. My family is proud to fly the American flag, and we do not agree with those who kneel when the National Anthem is played. It is disrespectful to veterans and those who have given their lives for our country.

If you have veterans in your family who either served in the military or some other type of service career, take time to tell them thanks . . . They will appreciate it! And an especially great big THANK YOU to our military veterans!

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.