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St. Joseph veterans, family members share memories in honor of Veterans Day

Several local businesses, organizations and communities coming together to honor and support St. Joseph military men and women this Veterans Day.

Posted: Nov 11, 2019 4:49 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Several local businesses, organizations and communities came together to honor and support area military men and women this Veterans Day.

Unfortunately, below-average temperatures and early morning snowfall Monday morning caused the annual Veterans Day Parade, hosted by the Joint Veterans Committee, to be canceled. The weather did not, however, stop local veterans from coming together at VFW Post 1668 for a free lunch and raffle.

"Regretfully, this is three years in a row now, but I think we'll hope for a better show next year," John Minton, secretary-treasurer for the Joint Veterans Committee, said. 

He added that the temperatures were too cold for the Junior ROTC and high school bands to march in. The parade would have started at noon on the corner of 10th and Francis Streets before ending on Frederick Avenue.

The veterans had originally planned to meet at the VFW following the parade, and still held a free meal for anyone who came out. Several of the veterans also shared stories from their time in active service. 

In fact, Minton brought three paintings done by a fellow soldier who he says had gotten into some trouble during their time with the National Guard. 

"The man came to me, he had a little problem with alcohol and couldn't drive. In the wintertime, I'd take him back to his apartment and drive him back to work," Minton said. 

He added that eventually the soldier was able to go and get his license reinstated. But just a few months later, Minton said he received a call at about two o'clock in the morning from the St. Joseph Police Department.

"They said 'Sgt. Minton, we've got one of your boys down here sitting on a curb and he thinks he's going to drive a car but he's been drinking pretty heavily and he can barely stand,'" Minton said. "I took him back to the armory and said 'you be in formation at zero-eight hundred. No ifs, ands or buts about it.'"

Minton said he spoke with the soldier the entire drive back to the armory, and that the soldier still remembers to this day every word that he had said. 

"I did find out after that night that he said I saved his life," Minton said. "I'm proud of him, he did it."

The paintings brought in by Minton were created by the soldier and given to Minton as a thank you gift. Two of them are self-portraits and the third is of the man's two daughters, who Minton said has never seen their father take a drink of alcohol in their lives. 

Minton was not the only one to share a memory during the event on Monday. Gold Star Child Stacey Unzicker said her father died in combat during the Vietnam War just nine weeks before she was born.

"I never got to give my dad a welcome home, so I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for Vietnam veterans especially, but for all veterans," Unzicker said. 

She added that her father was born in Dodge City, Kansas, but moved to St. Joseph in the late 1950s. He was an alumnus of St. James School in the Southend and then put himself through Christain Brothers High School. 

In 1969, Unzicker's father married his wife and her mother. At that same time, she said her father received his draft card and was soon deployed to Vietnam in June 1970. Only seven weeks later, on July 17th, 1970, her father lost his life while in active service. 

"Losing my dad, I know freedom's not free and all of these Vietnam vets - all vets know it's not free," Unzicker said. "They've all paid some price, and the families as well."

She said it was important for her to come and share her story with other local veterans as a way to honor their service and sacrifices. 

"It's a way to celebrate those that are brave enough to come forward and give me my freedom," Unzicker said.

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The forecast for today will be very similar to yesterday: cooler, hazy, and sunny. The hazy sky is a result of the wild fires out to the west of us. Tonight should be cool as well with lows in the lower 60s and calm winds. Dry and sunny conditions continue into next week as temperatures stay seasonal. Highs look to stay in the 80s until midweek and the humidity will be moderate, feeling a lot more comfortable than last week.
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