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98-year-old WW2 soldier gives keynote at Veterans Day celebration in Muskegon

Muskegon Community College

The City of Muskegon hosted its annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Causeway Veterans Memorial Park Monday, to honor those from West Michigan who served in the armed forces, while paying respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Dozens of soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the Vietnam War and the Korean War were in attendance, though the eldest veteran was 98-year-old Francis Gerrit Veldman.

He recalled his long march through the battlefields of World War Two.

“I went to North Africa, served through North Africa, went up and down the peninsula of Italy two or three times, and then shipped off to southern France from there,” Veldman said. “I went to southern France in the same area that my dad was in-- in World War 1. The identical sector of France. And then from there into Germany.”

Veldman, who looked surprisingly agile for a man almost 100 years of age, gave the keynote speech at the ceremony, where he said that supporting American troops who are overseas should be unconditional, regardless of what political beliefs one may have.

“When the American soldier is off fighting, we can’t have people fighting amongst themselves back home,” Veldman said. “Creating a climate that is detrimental to the welfare of those people who are out there fighting for us.”

A Purple Heart recipient, Veldman is a former commander of American Legion Post 9 and served with the 70th Infantry Division, known as the “Trailblazers.”

*On behalf of everyone at WGVU Public Media, we send our deepest gratitude to the men and women who have served in the armed forces, and to their families as well. Thank you so very much for your service.