Three Marines from different generations

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Veterans Day is just around the corner and this time of year people focus in on the issues today’s active service members and Veterans face. It’s also a time to come together and show pride for what these men and women did and currently do for the country.

These three Marine Corps Veterans from World War II, Vietnam and Afghanistan have each had different experiences.

“Every war is a little different. Every Veteran is a little different,” Sampson said.

From weeks at war on the island of Peleliu for 93-year-old Tea resident Carl Sampson to combat in Vietnam for Ronald Tottingham of Sioux Falls.

“It seemed like everything in society was against us and we didn’t have any avenue to go to to get support. So we just took our uniforms off, put them in a closet and made a life for ourself,” Tottingham said.

Eric Oelkers from Brandon is grateful things have changed.

“There’s a lot of support, especially in the Veteran community, from Vet to Vet,” Oelkers said.

The former combat engineer got out of the Marines this year. He’s married with two young kids, has a job and goes to school full-time to keep himself busy. Oelkers is also part of the local Marine Corps League.

“I’m absolutely prideful. I’m sitting here with two of the greatest generations that we’ve had. To know that I was a part of that legacy, having these men beside me, it’s honorable,” Oelkers said.

While having a better road map for transitioning back to civilian life has been huge for Oelkers, Sampson says the love he receives from the general public means a lot.

Sampson: Wearing the World War II cap, I get many thank yous, handshakes and breakfasts and lunch paid for.

Holsen: How does that make you feel?

Sampson: Makes me feel that they honor me.

Whether you served in the military in the 40s, 60s, or post 9/11, each Veteran is worthy of respect for their sacrifice to the country.

“Be proud of it and we are. You’ll hardly see a Marine that will hang his head,” Sampson said.

“I hate to say it but there’s a chip on your shoulder. Being a Marine is something that you’ll never let go. The saying, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine.’ It holds true,” Oelkers said.

Oelkers says having a healthy infrastructure to fall into after deployment has shielded him from problems. Surrounding himself with other Veterans here at home has also given him the information and support he needs when it comes to learning about VA benefits and where to go for help.

If you’d like to hear more stories about Veterans, make sure to tune into our “Veterans Voices” Special. It will air at 6:30 p.m. on Veterans Day, November 11 right here on KELO-TV.

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