Morales, Blake honored for service to the community

Two veterans – who happen to be familiar faces in the community – were singled out with special awards Thursday during Lakeview and Edgewood Middle Schools’ Veterans Day program.

U.S. Marine and Air Force veteran David A. Morales was presented with the Meritorious Service Award by John Sadler, Sons of American Legion Squadron 49;  and Navy veteran Roy C. “Rev” Blake received the Order of Kosciuszko from Ken Locke, Salvation Army Community Ministries Director and a US. Army veteran. Retired Army Sgt. 1st Jordan Mayfield helped present the plaques.

The Meritorious Service Award is given by the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Committee to the person or organization for outstanding service to veterans and their families above and beyond the call of duty

The Order of Kosciuszko, given to honor Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, is awarded annually by the committee to recognize a Kosciusko County resident who has given exceptional service to God, country and others in the spirit of Kosciuszko. The qualifications for the award are: honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. armed forces; resident of Kosciusko for no less than five years; and exceptional volunteer or public service given to others in the county.

Upon receiving the award, Blake was visibly awestruck, waving to the standing and applauding crowd with tears streaming down his face.

“I was surprised, flabbergasted,” he said after the program. “I mean, there are a lot of people who’ve probably done a lot more than I did. … By the grace of God, I am what I am.”

Morales also graciously downplayed the honor.

“I am humbled and honored to have been surprised with this award. It’s not about me, it’s about my community and who I chose to serve. I would like to share this honor with those many other veterans, their families and community members who deserve it more than I do. Thank you and Semper fi,” he said.

In recognizing Morales, Sadler said he graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield in 1989; worked at Warsaw Police Department for 28-1/2 years until July of this year and now works for Parkview Police Department; joined the Marines in 1982 before graduating high school, leaving active duty in 1987 but re-enlisted in the Reserves in 1988, retiring from the Reserves in 2002 with the rank of gunnery sergeant; and now is in the Air Force as a reserve. Sadler also listed a host of Morales’ memberships and accomplishments, noting that he is most well-known in the area for coordinating Toys For Tots in Kosciusko and Marshall counties.

“Probably to sum up his career, two words come to mind. One is protector, which means a defender, a guardian by definition. The other is a patriot, a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country and its interest with an unquestionable devotion,” Sadler said.

In honoring Blake, Locke said the Order of Kosciuszko is given as the highest honor at this time in Kosciusko County.

Blake was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on July 15, 1927. When he was 17, he tried to enlist in the Navy but his father wouldn’t let him. He waited until he was 18 to go into the military, joining the Navy in 1945 where he was a medic until 1947.

He has pastored churches in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Indiana. He worked full time for Warsaw Community Schools from 1981 to 1992, and is still employed as a substitute teacher. He officiated four sports – football, baseball, softball and wrestling.

Blake has been a conference speaker around the world, including Haiti, Bolivia, Germany and Rutgers University.

Along with serving as a longtime chaplain at American?Legion Post 49, Blake’s volunteer work includes Salvation Army board, police chaplain and at all WCS sporting events.

“A room in the sporting complex at Warsaw Community High School is being dedicated in his name,” Locke said.

Locke, who served in the Army from 1975 to 1979, also was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day program.

“A veteran, whether active duty, retired, National Guard or Reserve, is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life,” he said, noting that the author of that quote is unknown.

He said it was a great honor to serve in the United States military, though he served during peace time.

“Then there are war veterans. War veterans serve during a time when our country – which right now we are in a time of war, whether we like it or not – and many of our young men and women are placed in harm’s way,” he said, noting his dad served during war time and suffered from the effects of the war mentally, physically and spiritually.

Added to that are the veterans who are coming back “wounded in many different ways, especially in this war.”

“It’s estimated that 1.5 million Americans have been wounded. And today we pay the price for that wounding. PTSD ravages our people, and it’s estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. It’s something to think about when you wake up in the morning. That there are people who have given their all, and now they suffer from that in different ways, and we need to honor them in any way we possibly can,” he said.

He then focused on veterans killed in action. “They lose their lives for the cause of freedom; 1.3 million Americans have lost their lives since the Revolutionary War,”?he said.

The last veteran is the “one who is missing in action,” Locke continued. “They never came home. It’s hard to imagine.” From World War I, he said there’s 40,917 Americans who are still not accounted for “so we remember them as well today.”

Locke said one thing most veterans don’t like to be called is a hero. Often, veterans will say the real heroes never came home.

The program included musical performances by the middle schools’ band, choirs and orchestra. The Warsaw Community High School Junior ROTC program provided the posting of the colors. Edgewood Middle School Principal JoElla Smyth gave the opening comments, with Lakeview Principal Amy Sivley providing the closing comments.