GFA 2017 Wins for Warriors Veteran of the Year Finalists

Dick Thelen

Dick Thelen of Lansing joined the US Navy at the age of 17.  In July of 1945 (then 18), he was aboard the USS Indianapolis as it delivered the first atomic bomb to Tinian Island in the Pacific. The bomb would be dropped on Japan within days, thus hastening the end of WWII. En route to Leyte to join the 7th Fleet for the invasion of Japan, his ship was torpedoed by an enemy submarine. A distress call had been sent, but ignored. Three hundred sailors went down with the ship; nine hundred went into the water.  For four days and five nights the sailors floated in the ocean without food or water.  Sharks took many. When they were miraculously spotted floating in the ocean by a plane out on routine patrol, help was called to come to their rescue.  By then, only 317 survived the ordeal and only 22 are still alive today. Dick Thelen, as a survivor, speaks about perseverance and never giving up, despite the circumstances.  His audiences are always captivated and often emotionally moved by Dick’s experience.  They are reminded that each of us must hope for the best.  At age 90, Dick lives independently, is still very mobile, using only a cane for support.  Click here for video

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Lt. Col Charles Kettles

Lt. Col Charles Kettles was drafted into the United States Army at the age of 21.  Upon completion of basic training, Kettles attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Kentucky and earned his commission as an armor officer in the US Army Reserve in 1954. He then served active duty tours in South Korea, Japan and Thailand.  On May 15th, 1967, Kettles flew his UH-1 helicopter repeatedly into heavy fire to save dozens of soldiers who were ambushed by North Vietnamese troops in the Song Tau Cau River Valley.  He coaxed his seriously damaged and overloaded helicopter to safety with the last eight soldiers who had been left behind.  Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama at the White House for his heroism in rescuing dozens of US soldiers that day.  Click here for video

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James C. McCloughan

James C McCloughan is being considered for the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.  Then-Private First Class McCloughan, a native and current resident of South Haven, served as a medic and saved the lives of 10 members of his platoon who were wounded during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill in May of 1969. “Nearly 50 years ago, Private First Class James McCloughan acted heroically to save the lives of his fellow service members, and its time that he finally receives the recognition he deserves,” says Senator Debbie Stabenow. For nearly 40 years, he taught psychology and sociology and coached football, wrestling and baseball at South Haven High School before retiring in 2008.  Click here for video