The Southwest Region Kare 9 teams accepted the invitation without really knowing what to expect but were truly not disappointed. The evening began with a VIP reception during which four veterans explained their own personal challenge coin experiences. They in turn presented all veterans and attendees with coins designed for the occasion to thank veterans for their service to our country as well as thank attendees for their help with veterans.
Guest speakers included Captain Molly Mae Potter who told of her military training and experiences that resulted in her serving in the Middle East. Upon her return home, she credits her dog Bella with helping her to have the will to reconnect as she overcame obstacles. The Kare 9 teams witnessed the Veteran Service Award being presented to the Honorable Mike Denton. Judge Denton presides over the Travis County Veterans Court. He told of the formation of the special court to help veterans who have difficulties because of alleged crimes, but often also have underlying issues that cause problems with the law.
A very tender part of the evening was the pinning of veterans who served during the Vietnam Era. Three LCC Kare 9 Military Ministry team members were pinned: Chuck Wendt, veteran handler for Kare 9s Phoebe and Pax, and David Layland and Ken Wehmeyer, veteran handlers for Kare 9s Abner and Martha. They also received personal comments as the pinning occurred.
It was a very special time for the veterans assembled as well as those who watched. As the first part of the evening concluded, music and games followed. The Kare 9 teams all agreed they had a wonderful time, met some wonderful people, and were so honored to be included in the evening.
A Brief History of the USS Lexington
The USS Lexington, commissioned in 1943, set more records than any other Essex Class carrier in the history of naval aviation. The ship was the oldest working carrier in the United States Navy when decommissioned in 1991. An Essex-class carrier, Lexington was originally named the USS Cabot. During World War II, final construction was being completed at Massachusetts’ Fore River Shipyard when word was received that the original carrier named USS Lexington, CV-2, had been sunk in the Coral Sea. The new carrier’s name was changed to Lexington.
After training maneuvers and a shakedown cruise, Lexington joined the Fifth Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The Fifth Fleet was established April 26, 1944, at this time it was Central Pacific Force. During World War II, the carrier participated in nearly every major operation in the Pacific Theater and spent a total of 21 months in combat. Her planes destroyed 372 enemy aircraft in the air, and 475 more on the ground. She sank or destroyed 300,000 tons of enemy cargo and damaged an additional 600,000 tons. The ship’s guns shot down 15 planes and assisted in downing five more.
The Japanese reported Lexington sunk no less than four times! Yet, each time she returned to fight again, leading the propagandist Tokyo Rose to nickname her “The Blue Ghost.” The name is a tribute to the ship and the crew and air groups that served aboard her.
After the war, LEXINGTON was briefly decommissioned (1947-1955). When reactivated, she operated primarily with the Seventh Fleet out of San Diego, California. Although not involved in actual combat, Lexington kept an offshore vigil during tensions in Formosa, Laos, and Cuba.
In 1962, she sailed into Pensacola, Florida, and began training operations, eventually being officially designated CVT-16, Navy Training Carrier. Corpus Christi, Texas, is privileged to be selected as the permanent home to this national treasure.