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Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Sappington saluted during the pledge of allegiance at a program honoring military veterans at St. Matthias Catholic Church on Nov. 11.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Sappington saluted during the pledge of allegiance at a program honoring military veterans at St. Matthias Catholic Church on Nov. 11.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Veterans pleased with St. Matthias Parish event honoring their service

One St. Matthias family gets a ‘three-peat’ of recognition on Veterans Day

A U.S. Marine Corps color guard stood at attention during an annual program to salute to military veterans. The marines are (from left) Lance Cpl. Robert Bradley, Sgt. Ed Dodson and Cpl. Mike Lee.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
It was a three-peat of sorts for the Venable family at a Veterans Day program at St. Matthias Parish in south St. Louis County honoring all those who served in the military.

Three members of the family were recognized at the Mass and program thanking the men and women of U.S. military services for the devotion in protecting the country.

Event planner and coordinator Rich Bauer, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, handed out certificates to veterans, including Robert Venable, who served in the U.S. Navy, and Venable’s wife, Michele, who served in the U.S. Air Force. Their son, Joseph Venable, a U.S. Marine serving in Okinawa, Japan, was recognized along with three other parishioners currently serving in the military.

Robert Venable said “it means a lot that the veterans are recognized,” especially those from the Vietnam War and earlier, he said. His father was a sailor, he said, “and it was only natural for me to follow in his footsteps. I served for 21 years (in the Cold War era). The military raised me, brought me up and taught me how to be a man.”

His father served in the Korean War, and he considers the military as advocates for rights and freedoms.

The Mass included patriotic songs and prayers for veterans, current military and their families and for all who died in service to the country.

Former U.S. Army Spc. David Bartholomew held a photograph of himself taken before he left for Vietnam to served with the 169th Engineer Battalion.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
David Bartholomew, an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, attended the Mass with his wife, who held a photo of her husband in his Army days. Bartholomew’s son, Michael, served 22 years in the Army Reserve and did three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and his father was a Navy officer on a destroyer in World War II.

Terry Strahan sat in the front pew at the Mass. He’s on active duty with the U.S. Air Force serving at Jefferson Barracks playing the bugle for honors burials.

A member of Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves who joined the military in 1966, he said the St. Matthias celebration was refreshing. Instead of attending an official event, he said, “I’m here with a bunch of Catholics instead of politicians.”

The Catholics he knows support veterans, Strahan said. When he came back from Guam during the Vietnam War, he said, “people called us baby-killers, spit on us, didn’t want to have anything to do with us.”

Ben Venturella of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville, also interviewed at the program following Mass, served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1957-66. He said it’s important to pay tribute to the country’s veterans. And he praised St. Matthias for its outreach, noting that “it’s good for the community.”

Mike Sappington, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps the day after the U.S. embassy was taken over by Iranians in 1979, said he’s proud to be in the ranks of his relatives who served. “I think it’s wonderful people don’t forget the veterans,” he said.

U.S. Air Force Sgt. Terry Strahan prayed at Mass. Sgt. Strahan serves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
A member of St. Ann Parish in Normandy, he said when he grew up just about every home was occupied by a veteran, but today his street has only two veterans.

Robert Bradley of St. Paul Parish in Fenton attended the Mass as a member of the Marine Corps League #183. “I’m here to honor all the veterans,” no matter what branch they served in, he said.

Bradley served with the U.S. Marine Corps in active duty from 1958-66.

The Marine Corps League is a veterans organization made up of active duty, retired and Marine veterans. Mike Lee, a member of the league who served from 1964-68, said “there’s so many veterans who don’t know the support they can get.”

The Marine Corps League links veterans who need help with resources, Bradley said, citing the importance of that effort.

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