Theresa Freed 0:00
Every November Johnson County government joins the rest of the nation in honoring those who serve their country. On this episode find out how the county is observing Veterans Day differently. hear about the special guests who will be recognized and meet a 99 year old world war two veteran from Johnson County who continues to defy the odds.
Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.a
Theresa Freed 0:34
Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The annual Johnson County Veterans Day observance is a tradition many people look forward to. It's an event that celebrates the lives of our local veterans. But in the middle of a pandemic, it's important to follow safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So this year, the event is going virtual. Here to talk more about that is Johnson County Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Jody Hansen. Jody, thanks for joining us here.
Jody Hanson 1:07
Thank you, Theresa.
Theresa Freed 1:08
Alright, to start off with, can you just talk about the importance of this event and taking the time to honor those who serve our country?
Jody Hanson 1:15
Sure. Johnson County government really has a passion for recognizing and honoring and saying thank you to our veterans, those who served. This is our 34th year of holding a Veterans Day observance. So it's just a great opportunity to take a pause on Veterans Day and say thank you to those who served our country.
Theresa Freed 1:37
And so every year, I know the theme changes just a little bit. And so this year, who are we especially recognizing,
Jody Hanson 1:43
Yes, every year, our event honors all veterans who serve but there's always a special emphasis on a either a specific military branch, or just a different group of veterans. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, and also the end of the Holocaust. So those are the two key people we will be recognizing World War Two veterans and Holocaust survivors.
Theresa Freed 2:06
So typically Veterans Day, this Veterans Day observance is a live outdoor event, we have lots of people who come sitting closely together, and enjoying just, you know, an hour filled with with patriotic music, and speakers and all that great stuff. And so, again, we're in the middle of a pandemic, and that is just not a possibility. So can you talk a little bit about how and why this event is going virtual?
Jody Hanson 2:33
Yes, you know, typically, this event attracts hundreds of veterans and families, or just people that are interested in observing the day. So as you said, during a pandemic, this just isn't the time to bring hundreds of people together in person. And so what we're trying to do is capture the essence of the event and include almost everything that we typically do, just doing it virtually. So it's going to be a combination of Chairman Ed Eilert, speaking live at 11 o'clock on November 11, during the event, and going to video of components that are typically happening live in person.
Theresa Freed 3:11
And so in addition to this event actually being hosted live, we've also created some great resources that are available online leading up to this event. So can you talk about those?
Jody Hanson 3:22
Yes, we really spent a good amount of effort trying to find Johnson County World War Two veterans, and really wanted to honor them even leading up to the Veterans Day observance. We heard from nearly 70, World War Two veterans that live here in Johnson County. And so we got the chance to get a little information about them, where they served, the branch they have. We got some photos of them. And so we featured them in the November-December issue of The Best Times, which should have already hit mailboxes. That's one of the magazines that we produce. So there is a spread in the magazine honoring them. We're also honoring them online and on social media. And then those same veterans will be honored in a video during the Veterans Day observance.
Theresa Freed 4:08
And can you talk just a little bit about that 21-day salute that we're doing in kind of the some symbolism attached to that.
Jody Hanson 4:18
I think we've all heard of a 21-gun salute as being part of a military observance in recognition. And so what we're doing is a 21 day salute. So the 21 workdays Monday through Friday leading up to Veterans Day, each day, we have been highlighting three or four of those veterans on our web page and on social media. So it's a great opportunity to follow in our social media channels to see who we're talking about that day. And then when you go to the website, you'll see a couple of them are highlighted that day, but then they're all available to see all their profiles and pictures.
Theresa Freed 4:52
And what has been some of the response that we've gotten from this, this recognition.
Jody Hanson 4:57
You know, it's been very nice to see the responses social media because we're right now talking about so many other topics. And so I think people are appreciating that we are recognizing veterans. And we've had over 1000 people visit the web page where these profiles are listed. So we are hearing from the community and we can tell through data that they're being seen. And we're also hearing from veterans, families who are really excited and kind of want to know what day they are family member and their loved one is being honored. And then again, they will all be honored as part of our Veterans Day observance.
Theresa Freed 5:32
One of the other neat things I think about this event is that, you know, just like every other year, it incorporates local music. And we're still able to do that even though the musicians will not be in a room, we've been able to capture that. Can you talk about that?
Jody Hanson 5:49
Yeah, so you know typically we will, depending on where our event is, we'll maybe get a high school band that will come and play. And we've got different local groups that will sing of all ages. And we've done sort of a lot of different musical components through the years. But yes, this year, again, it's not safe to get a band together, it's not safe to get a big choir together. And so these organizations have taken their time to figure out how to do it safely and have recorded video of themselves. So we are going to have part of our event is going to feature a local quartet called Sassafras. And they videotape themselves all separately, you might have seen other groups do that during this pandemic. So we will have to have four of them singing together, but separately. And then we also have some band music provided by the American Legion band that you'll hear during parts of our program. So we're so pleased to still be able to incorporate traditional things like that, even though we're doing it differently this year. Another example of that is our wreath presentation. Typically we will have people at the event place wreaths.These are people that represent different organizations, World War Two vets, Korean vets, the American Legion, Gold Star mothers. There are nearly a dozen groups who participate. So this year, we have recorded them all separately. So we will have a video of the presentations, rather than them happening live in the room just like Taps, just like the rifle salute, all those typical, traditional components can still happen.
Theresa Freed 7:20
And just another great feature of this is, you know, normally this is in the middle of a day. And you know, some people can attend this event. And now somebody can sit at their computer, they can watch, if not all of it, at least catch part of it. And they can come back and listen or watch the whole thing at a later time, which is a really cool thing. So it's not all bad, and that we had to go virtual this year. there's a there's a lot of benefit to that. So I guess the final very important information is how do people watch this event this year?
Jody Hanson 7:52
Yes, that will be available on our website. So there's a couple you have a couple different options you can just see all you can remember is the homepage, jocogov.org, we will have images leading you to where you need to see it. We have created a special veterans page. So that would be jocogov.org/JoCoHonorsVets. That's another way to directly get to our event page. And then if you follow us on Facebook, just do a search for either Johnson County government or @JoCoGov. We will be streaming it live on Facebook, we've been told that other television stations in the metro area might be streaming it on their websites or their social media. So the more the merrier. The more places this is seen, it's just a great benefit. You know, I'm really hoping that if you have a veteran in your life, and maybe a veteran, that's not spending a lot of time on Facebook or on social media, you know, maybe help them in advance, show them where they can find it or set up a plan where maybe come to the house if that's safe. If it's in someone in your family, we just want to make sure that this event is accessible to everybody and kind of what you were saying before. You know, maybe in the future, this is an event where we have two options where you can attend it, you know in person, because we want that to come back. We want to be able to celebrate in person once it's safe to do so. But maybe it's also available, virtually so there's more options.
Theresa Freed 9:18
And then some great information. Thanks, Judy, for joining us and we look forward to a great crowd to come watch this event. Now in an earlier recorded interview, I got the chance to catch up with one of our featured veterans this year. He's a world war two survivor and a covid survivor. I'll let him introduce himself.
Max DeWeese 9:35
I'm Max DeWeese. I'm 99 years old.
Theresa Freed 9:39
if you just want to talk about um, you know, you live in Johnson County, right?
Max DeWeese 9:45
I've lived I live at Silvercrest at Deer Creek. I've lived here for seven and a half years now. Lost my wife four years ago. But I stayed and you know I'm content. I am also a virus survivor. And World War Two veteran. I was in the first company to land on Guadalcanal August 7, 1942. Second Marine Division.
Theresa Freed 10:20
Well, we, of course, thank you for your service, and we're excited to be able to celebrate you on Veterans Day as we celebrate. I think you'll be okay. And we've only got a couple more weeks ago here. But we're excited to celebrate you and other World War Two veterans on this Veterans Day. And can you tell us a little bit more about your experience? how you got started and what are some of your major accomplishments?
Max DeWeese 10:53
I'll make a long story short. I did not graduate from junior college in 1941 because I couldn't pass chemistry. I was working on the road for Founder file company, inventory crew. Came home at Christmas time after Pearl Harbor, ran into my chemistry professor. He talked me into joining the Marines. He was a marine in World War One severely wounded in the Battle of Belleau Wood. So I didn't know any better I went down and joined the Marine Corps. I tried to join New Year's Eve but they wouldn't talk to me. They said come back January 15 of '42. Went back January 15. Signed up, passed the physical and was aboard a train that night to San Diego to boot camp. Went aboard a troop transport on Mother's Day 1942 lived on that until we landed Guadalcanal in August. After Guadalcanal, I was there for the as I said our company was the first one to land on Japanese soil. I was there until the battle was over went to New Zealand for R&R. Then to Tarawa, which was a 76-hour battle. Went to the hospital from there and rejoin my company and they had a complete complement of men and so I was transferred to the Engineer Battalion combat engineer and became a flamethrower operator I was a flamthrower operator on Saipan and Tinian. And after 33 months in the Pacific, they let me come home. When I got home, I ran into my chemistry professor quite by accident. And he said, Max, you can go up to the college office and get your diploma, you have passed chemistry. Now that is probably the toughest chemistry course anyone has ever had. In that interim period, I got two Purple Hearts, was in four major engagements and actually turned out pretty well for me and down the path because when I went got home because I did have two years of college, they sent me to Quantico. I turned down going to OCS because second lieutenants were put in nine companies and their mortality rate was probably greater than privates. So I took my chances ended up as an instructor in demolitions and flamethrowers at OCS in Quantico. And I got my discharge because I signed a four year contract. Came home met my wife. Her bridesmaids father was the CO of the Air Force Reserve unit at Fairfax airport. He talked me in going into reserve. And I did the first one on five pound trout that used to be down on what was then known as Colonel post Hill. Went to Pendleton, reclassified everybody and they because I at that point, was a cost accountant for General Motors Chevrolet plant leads. So they made me a post exchange bookkeeper, which sounded pretty good. And put me in casual company and most of the reserves had not served. Most of them were green. They didn't know how to field strip a weapon, let alone clean it and I was helping them and their Sergeant Major asked me to or how come I knew all that and so I gave him the story. He said well, tomorrow, across the road is training replacement command. They're looking for instructors are you interested, I said sure. So the next morning I went over and talked to the captain in charge. He said, I'd love to have you get to go see the S3 officer. The S3 officer was my CO at Quantico. In fact, I used to babysit his kids occasionally. He said Max, we'll start writing letters and do what we can. Now you have to go down and meet the battalion commander. I walked in his office, I walked in, he said, Max DeWeese what the hell are you doing here? I said, I'm reporting and requesting that you write letters and get me to stay stateside. And I had two people that I knew working for me. So the night before the first draft left. I was transferred to the training replacement command there at Pendleton. And I served the rest of my Korean duty time as an instructor. My wife came out we lived in South Laguna without much income, but we had a good time. I stayed in the reserve did a total of five years of active duty and 18 hours of reserve which gave me 23 hours that's been saved me from being bankrupt because my wife was quite ill, and I've had the virus. And I've never gotten a doctor's bill, hospital bill or rehab bill, because I have covered by TRICARE for life. So you're shaking your head. I hope you got all that?
Theresa Freed 16:47
I sure did. That was that was a lot of great information. And, you know, just again, thank you for your service, some tremendous accomplishments there. You mentioned that you had you had the COVID-19 virus. And you survived it amazingly, obviously, since we're sitting here talking. So can you talk a little bit about about that, what that would experience was like.
Max DeWeese 17:07
Yeah, it was sorta strange. Where I live, they were taking our temperature twice a day. And my temperature was always in the upper 90s. You know, it was normal. And all of a sudden, I lost my appetite, food didn't taste good. I didn't want to eat. So the woman that is in charge, literally, I think saved my life because she said, Well, let me check your oxygen. And it was 84. And if you know anything about it, and I knew because my wife passed with COPD. The next day I was in the hospital, I was there. I was the first virus patient at St. Luke's South. I found out later. I was there two weeks, I can remember four days, the rest of the time, I have no idea. And then I went to rehab in an exotic place called the Ignite Medical Resort. It's a KU facility down at 39th and Rainbow. And I didn't want to leave because the food was so good there compared to everything else I had. And the toughest part of the whole thing was when I came home why I was required, and I understand why but it was a pain to do it was that I was quarantined. For two weeks, 14 days, I couldn't leave my apartment. Nobody could come in my apartment. And you know, being isolated for 14 days is not very good.
Theresa Freed 18:54
Either. That's, that's amazing that you you survived that. And it sounds like you had quite a reception when you when you left the house.
Max DeWeese 19:02
Yeah, yeah. surprised. I belong to a group. I don't have membership, but I am very active in a group called FISH. Which is stands for Friends In Service of Heroes. And we have given over 30 service dogs to veterans or family of veterans because there are a lot of people that their spouse has been in the service and they've been able to get things but they can't. And they don't have the means to do it. And we have been able to help people like that. I don't know how many electric wheelchairs we've done, done some remodeling of residences so that wheelchairs can be used or ramps built to do that. I think three cars that have been equipped to take wheelchairs in them and given to veterans. They do just a lot of good. I've been very involved in that. A chaplain our our Marine Corps league,which we are still active in meeting, I do meals once a week Meals on Wheels once a week. And when I get through talking to you, I'm going to call the golf course and get a tee time for Friday, because I have a foursome, and we're going to play golf Friday, because there's going to be warming enough.
Theresa Freed 20:29
Yeah, that's what I hear. You are a very active resident, for sure. And just, it's great to hear your stories and how you're still contributing to the community, even after all the service that you've provided to the community.
Max DeWeese 20:45
Well, why not do it, I'm capable of it, I have, I still drive. I'm active in my church. In fact, my church had a golf outing at the end of September. And half of that money that we raised, went to FISH and the other half went to Tiny Houses out there on Troost, which they were taking a check to them Veterans Day,
Theresa Freed 21:09
I just wanted to kind of wrap up with getting some thoughts on, you know, just messages to the general public about how important it is to take this time to observe Veterans Day and express appreciation for those who have served their country.
Max DeWeese 21:26
Well, I want to make a statement that you may not include, which is all right, but I want to make the statement. I do whenever asked, and not very often anymore, but I speak at schools or whatever clubs and what have you. And my message is that we have raised two or three and maybe four generations of young people that have no conception whatsoever of the sacrifices that have been made, so that they can abuse the liberties that they have. We are losing liberties, like nobody's business more rapidly than people even think of. And that bothers me. Because we have a free country. I know we have a constitution that says that we have a lot of freedoms, but we aren't allowed to have them. And this is very disturbing to me and I speak anytime I can to any group. And this is my basic message is that we've got to get this thing turned around to get our kids educated as to what has been done for them.
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