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By Steve Erdman
Neb. 47th District 

Straight Talk from Steve: Veterans Day


November 10, 2021 | View PDF

This week we honor and celebrate out veterans.

These are the men and women who have put their very lives at risk in order to keep the rest of us safe, to protect our God-given liberties, and to safeguard our American way of life.

Every veteran is a highly valued and esteemed American patriot, so today I would like to share a recent story about what it takes to properly honor a veteran.

Arthur R. Lewis was a soldier who never earned a purple heart or a silver star. He was a native of Massachusetts, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the 1920’s and then later served in the Merchant Marine during World War II. Lewis survived the war and went on to work aboard the S.S. Steel Vendor cargo ship, a ship which had been used for troop transport during World War II.

He died on October 3, 1959 at sea while transporting cargo in the Gulf of Tadjoura and was haphazardly buried in Djibouti City some 8,000 miles away from home near the horn of Africa.

Due to the great distance, Lewis’s family lost track of his gravesite, which had become covered with broken bits of coral and was missing a headstone. Through a 10-year labor of love, Lewis’s daughter set out to find his gravesite and give him the military honors that were rightfully due him.

With the help of Nathan Reynolds, a 40-year-old Army veteran, Staff Sgt. Rolland Cheng of the 443 Civil Affairs Battalion, Major Jay Cavaiola of the 404 Civil Affairs Battalion, and an Army chaplain named Parnell, Lewis’s gravesite was finally discovered at the New European Cemetery in Djibouti City.

These men helped Lewis’s family purchase the plot of ground where he was buried and then set out to properly honor him as a United States veteran. The Army’s 377th Engineer Vertical Construction Company installed a 240-pound granite headstone on Lewis’s grave, which had been delivered to Camp Lemonnier near Djibouti City by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Finally, on October 28, 2021 American and foreign dignitaries along with several other U.S. service members gathered around Lewis’s grave to give him his overdue military honors. Attendance at the ceremony consisted of a Who’s Who list of military personnel, including an Army two-star general, a Navy Captain and the U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti.

Foreign guests included Djibouti’s Minister of Defense along with other top military brass and dignitaries from France and Canada. Sadly, though, Lewis’s daughter was unable to make the 8,000-mile trek to Djibouti to give her father the proper military burial that she had worked so hard to give him.

I share these things with you today in order to help you better understand what it means to honor a veteran. Our American tradition of honoring our veterans runs very deep. We will spare no cost, cross any ocean, and continue the search until every veteran is found and receives a proper military burial. And why do we do this? Because as Claudia Pemberton once famously remarked, “America without her soldiers is like God without his angels.”

This week thank a veteran for his or her service to our country. Shake their hands or salute them and let them know how much you appreciate the time and sacrifices they have made to protect our country and to advance the cause of freedom around the world.


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