After a lifetime of fighting for the rights of Americans in general and veterans in particular, Kenai resident Glenn D. Schrader was honored by Disabled American Veterans Chapter 5 of Kenai for his tireless efforts.
"There is no better advocate for veterans on the Kenai Peninsula than Glenn Schrader," said an emotional DAV Commander Al Hicks at an intimate ceremony April 9 in the home of DAV treasurer Bill Bartlett and his wife, Wilma, in Nikiski.
"This life we live on a daily basis is fleeting, and sometimes we feel empty inside," Hicks continued. "I've learned to take life one day at a time, focus on what I have to do and listen to the guidance given by Glenn Schrader.
"I hope to follow in your footsteps one day," Hicks said as he presented a plaque for outstanding and meritorious achievement to Schrader.
"Well, you'll have to learn to walk pretty slow," the 82-year-old Schrader said with a laugh.
Hicks said later that the award was only given rarely.
"It means he was out there a lot and did a lot of advocacy," Hicks said.
Schrader became a disabled veteran in mid-1942 during a training exercise to join an airborne division.
He had planned on joining the U.S. Army for one year when he signed up on April 1, 1941, but the attack on Pearl Harbor eight months later changed his plans.
"I went for a year and I was going to get out, but that didn't happen until 17 March 1945," Schrader said. "That sure was a long year, but I don't regret any of it."
Assigned to the 127th Ordinance Company, Schrader repaired all manner of equipment from small arms to vehicles.
"We did most any repair that was needed, except for heavy tanks," he said.
Schrader's life took another unexpected turn when he contracted spinal meningitis just before he was due to ship out with his company to North Africa to fight the German Army led by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Schrader was quarantined for six weeks with other meningitis sufferers, during which time his outfit was sent overseas.
"Those men were like family, but I've never heard from any of them again," Schrader said. "Maybe they all got killed. That Rommel was pretty tough. We were really taking a hit from him."
It wasn't the meningitis directly that disabled Schrader, it was what happened after he recovered enough to be released from quarantine. Still in a weakened condition, he was assigned to an airborne unit and sent straight into training in mid-1942.
Assigned to carry another soldier across a field and back, Schrader's spine broke.
"I was in such a weak condition that I just went down," he said. "I spent the better part of two years recovering."
Schrader and his wife, Joan, moved to Kenai in 1966 -- "We just landed here and never got away" -- after 15 years in New Mexico.
"Talk about a change," he said. "We arrived here 10 August, '66, and it was June '67 before I ever got warm. People were in T-shirts, and I was in a jacket with my hands in my pockets."
By 1966, the Cook Inlet oil boom had been going for about 10 years, and Schrader said he was at the tail end of a mass migration of oil field workers from eastern New Mexico.
"Everyone heard there was a (oil) strike up here and there was a shortage of workers, so everybody came up in droves," he said. "When we got up here, it was like we never left New Mexico."
He worked as a Teamster, delivering ready-mix concrete, until retiring in 1979.
"Now I'm working harder than when I had a job, because I had all those 'honey-dos' to do," he said with a laugh.
Schrader also is a member of the American Legion and Am Vets, but he said he does not qualify to be a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, since he never made it overseas during World War II. He has worked hard helping resurrect the DAV last year.
"We got where we couldn't get a quorum, and we've got 260 registered in the DAV," he said.
He currently is the publicity committee chair for Chapter 5.
Schrader said the secret to revitalizing the DAV is recruiting the scores of Vietnam veterans who were injured during that war. But that won't be easy, he said.
"A lot of Vietnam vets are wary because of the way they were treated when they came back," he said. "They don't want anything to do with anybody involved in any way with the government."
Chapter 5 of the Disabled American Veterans meets the third Thursday of every month, including Thursday this week, at 6 p.m. in the National Guard Armory on South Forest Drive in Kenai. Any veteran with a service-related disability, and all Purple Heart recipients, are eligible to join. For more information, call Hicks at 262-0497.
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