Photo/Tammy Curtis
Rear Admiral Robert Carius served as the guest speaker at the Cave City Middle School History Club’s Veteran’s Day Program ath the Cave City First Baptist Church Nov. 11. Below, veterans Tim Vichon, Frank Estes,Larry Farmer and Bob Townsley were among the large number of veterans honored at the ceremony on Friday.

By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

There were not very many empty chairs at the Cave City First Baptist Church on Veterans Day as the Cave City Middle School History Club honored area veterans.
Around 200 people showed up for the special tribute the students provide each year. Under the sponsorship of Trish Turnbough, students spoke from their hearts with many tears being shed throughout the service.
The Ceremony was opened with the Pledge by Bentley Brockway followed by the Star Spangled Banner by Landon and Micah Farris.
Emily Cross welcomed the large group to the church, after rain and inclimate weather moved the service from the Cave City Veterans Memorial. Before the introduction of Guest Speaker Admiral Robert Carius by Colton Crumbly, Veterans Day poems were read by Jayden Dryer and Dixie Miller.
Rear Admiral Bob Carius was born and raised on a farm in rural Illinois. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1947, graduated in 1951 as a commissioned officer in the Navy. Carius’ career was centered around Naval Aviation, flying from aircraft carriers. His aircraft squadron during the Vietnam War made several deployments to the Tonkin Gulf in support of the war. He had the pleasure of assisting in the recovery of the Apollo Ten astronauts in 1969 and again when in command of his ship, the USS New Orleans, when they received the Skylab Two astronauts in 1973. He retired after 34 years of service and has worked locally on several projects since.

Carius invited a veteran from the audience to come forward. Tim Vichcon told the Admiral he had just moved to the area. He joined the Navy 1973 as a foreman and served with the USMC working on surface ships, medical centers and submarines. He was injured after serving 14 years yet was not able to retire. “It is an honor to be here,” he said.
The Admiral spoke about the definition of a veteran. He said they can serve in any capacity, in any branch of the military during any time in history with or without overseas or combat duty.
“We celebrated election day two days ago. Who do we owe the honor of having an election day in a democracy in the greatest country on Earth? It is the veterans,” he explained to a room full of claps and “yea’s”. “Let’s face it, if it hadn’t been for those veterans in 1776, we would all be speaking with cockney accent. Here we are and the veterans are keeping us free.”
He said anyone who travels appreciates the country we live in but things are not always as we would like them but he said, “That is life.”
Carius then honored a group who are rarely recognized on Veterans Day…. the wives of veterans. He asked those women present to stand. He began a story about his years in the Navy and having to leave his family behind during his deployment to Vietnam 1972. The Admiral left his family, behind in July of 1972 when he took command of a helicopter carrier in San Diego.
Just 10 days later, his family watched sadly from shore as he deployed for what they thought would just a six month mission in the Tonkin Gulf in Vietnam. The ship he captained contained 600 combat Marines who were injected into Vietnam as needed. The helicopters aboard also carried injured and dead back to the ship which also housed a fully staffed hospital and a morgue.
During the war, six months was a normal tour of duty … one that was often lengthened. As was the case with his ship. Carius went on to explain as he and his crew were ready to sail back home in anticipation of greeting their families, they were informed they would not be returning home at that time. The U.S. had previously mined Haiphong Harbor, a major seaport lying 90 miles East of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. He explained all of the Russian warships come up the Tonkin Gulf into that port for all of their fuel and war supplies. The military placed mines in the bottom of the harbor, often sinking ships nearby upon explosion.
By now, it was 1973, and Henry Kissinger was in Paris attempting to negotiate a Paris Peace Accord with North Vietnam. The Vietnamese wanted all the mines to be gone, declared safe, or non-active. The United States wanted the over 500 Prisoners of War to in Hanoi be released.
The ship he captained was the flagship in charge of de-mining Haiphong Harbor. “I vividly recall coming into the harbor under a dense fog. We had small minesweepers first sweep out a parking lot if you will. Then we moved in under dense fog and radar. We couldn’t even see the front of the ship. The next day, the fog lifted and there we were in enemy territory,” he explained. After remaining in the harbor for two days, the Admiral at the bridge above informed him as Captain they were going to be departing at midnight with a dark ship. Confused, he asked why because he knew the negotiations were ongoing as was the work to de-mine the harbor.
With only flashing lights and flags his ship departed. Carius explained that Kissinger had fallen into a snag with the North Vietnamese negotiators and called the Two Star Admiral on his ship and essentially told the North Vietnamese, ‘If you want to play hard ball, we’ll play hard ball, we are leaving … and we did.’”
After staying out three days, the North Vietnamese returned to the bargaining table and in May of 1973, almost 10 months to the day he deployed, he and his crew returned to their families.
Getting choked up, the Admiral explained to his audience the reason for his story and recognizing the women left behind and the sacrifices they make while their husbands are deployed as he looked at the women who had stood earlier.
“We were gone 10 months. My wife was home with six children from high school to less than a year old. She never wrote a sentence those whole ten months that said, ‘Oh poor me. The cat was killed. The car doesn’t work. The kids have a cold. Never a word, because she knew blankety blank well, I couldn’t do a thing 6,000 miles away.” Conversely he admitted there were some problems aboard the ship but he too knew his wife didn’t need the stressors and didn’t burden her with those details.
“That is why I am honoring those who stay behind to support the veterans. It is so, so, important,” he added.
He then asked the entire crowd to do the three cheer ‘Hip Hip Hooray’ to honor all the veterans and those left behind. The sound reverberated in the room as the Admiral closed saying, “God Bless American and our Veterans,” to a standing ovation.
The Cave City Elementary third grade music program sang “A Grand Ole Flag” to the veterans, many of who were seen waving their hands with imaginary flags and tapping their feet to the spirit filled rendition of the patriotic song.
Hadley Landers with the Cave City Middle School History club then spoke and told the crowd of her pledge to veterans. She described to the crowd ways to show respect their veterans, including never forgetting the people who gave them freedom, thanking them anywhere they encounter them for their service and always holding their hand over their heart during the national anthem. Her speech was received with several Amen’s.
The service ended with thanks to the veterans by Samuel Matthews.
Trish Turnbough them introduced David Holland With VFW Post 8042 who announced this year’s winners of the Patriot Pen Essay Contest. Holland wished all the Marines a belated Happy Birthday (Nov. 10) before announcing the contest winners.
The first place winner was Bentley Brockway, Second Place, Isiah Harris and Third Place Haley Henderson.
Turnbough welcomed the veterans to enjoy a free lunch after the event at Next Door and thanked the supporters of the event. The Cave City Elementary School singers were under the direction of Mrs. Kate Haling. Sponsors of the History Club also include Candra Bacon and Heather Landers.
Due to space constraints in our print issue, more photos of the veteran events at both Cave City and Highland will be on our website.