LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — Sixteen men from Indiana got a big honor Friday night: They are now in a special hall of fame.
But this isn’t for athletic achievement or some invention. It’s for service to this country.
They make up the newest class in the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
The service they provided, the courage that they showed, is now decades old. But what the night means to them has not faded with time. In fact, in many ways, it’s decades in the making.
Their courage and conviction were met with clapping and cheers from more than 200 people.
Veteran after veteran got their due including, retired Chief Master Sgt. Jay Collars, a complete reversal from the reception he got returning home from Vietnam.
“To have this happen to me tonight is justification for all that I did and all that I went through,” Collars said.
He’s been awarded the Bronze Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and almost a dozen other medals. Now he’s also a part of the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
“It’s an overwhelming episode in my life,” Collars said. “It’s an honor I just never envisioned would ever happen to me. It’s an overwhelming, inspiring dream come true.”
The Hall of Fame is on the grounds of the old Fort Ben. It’s believed to be the nation’s only military hall of fame with its own building.
“It’s an honor for my father and my family,” said Terry Ono, son of inductee Frank Ono.
Terry is representing his father who volunteered at 18 to fight in World War II as a Japanese American. He won the Medal of Honor for his heroism on, of all days, July 4, 1944.
He died in 1980, 20 years before being awarded the medal by President Bill Clinton. Still, almost 20 years after that ceremony, it’s worth it for Terry to fly from his home in Las Vegas to accept the award.
“Our current generation needs to know more about what the Greatest Generation did to protect our country and keep our freedom,” said Terry Ono.
That’s the reason for the Hall, to honor all generations of heroes.
Started in 2014, Friday night marked the fifth induction, bringing up the total number inductees to 99. Each is honored for battlefield valor or service to their community.
“We do it so that we can recognize those who have contributed to our freedoms and contributed greatly to our freedoms,” said Russell Dowden, chairman of the Hall of Fame.
Collars hopes his name in the Hall inspires others to do the same: join the military, serve the country and do it honorably.
“One never grows too old to receive a thank you for something that you did, particularly on behalf of the nation,” Collars said.
To get into the Hall of Fame, veterans must have Hoosier ties but don’t necessarily have to be born here. They must receive an honorable discharge and have no felonies.
The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame is open to all. It’s right off Herbert Lord Road and open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.