Don Van Elzen celebrates his 92nd birthday this month! When I visited my wonderful Uncle at his home a few weeks ago, I was greeted with his beautiful smile and warm hug. I have never known him to be anything but kind, loving and welcoming.
If you lived near Kimberly, Wisconsin, you probably have fond memories of Van Elzen’s Apple Orchard. For many families it wasn’t Fall until they went to the orchard to pick apples. It was a big part of our community and Uncle Don was a big part of its success.
When asked his secret to maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle, he’ll tell you that every day he eats apples & goes to church.
Uncle Don is also a Korean War veteran. He served in the Army’s 9th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division from 1950 to 1952, he spent 21 months in Korea. During this time, he was awarded a Purple Heart after receiving an injury.
Last December, at a family gathering, he received a big surprise. Special guest Major General Daniel Ammerman of the US Army presented Uncle Don with the Presidential Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nation’s Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal. The Korean War veteran finally received the medals he was awarded during his military service more than six decades ago.
Uncle Don’s reaction was one of humility and gratitude, “I don’t deserve all this attention; this is great recognition. I didn’t expect this at all.” He found it especially heartwarming that 8 of his 10 children and over 90 family members witnessed him receiving these honors.
This Veteran’s Day I am reminded of the countless men and women who have served in the military and have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom. I am grateful to all those brave men, women and their families.
I am also very grateful and blessed to have the honor of knowing a man like Uncle Don – Thriving at 92 – he is truly an inspiration and a blessing!