The “Salute to Veterans” exhibit at the Great Bend Public Library drew an appreciative crowd on Saturday, when organizers held a reception. Several veterans attended the event, including Larry Buczinski, who wore his U.S. Army uniform.
“Thank you for your service,” a woman said to Buczinski before entering the exhibit area to view dozens of photos, newspaper articles and artifacts spanning more than a century. Great Bend artist Karen Shaner, one of the organizers of the exhibit, has traced the military service in her own family tree to the War of 1812. The exhibit includes photos of her father and husband, both veterans, as was her grandfather.
It didn’t take long for area veterans to hear about the “Salute to Veterans” exhibit when it started going up at the first of the month. Since then, several more veterans have brought photos of family members who served in the military.
Buczinski served two terms of duty in Vietnam as a radar air traffic controller. He’s also a former law enforcement officer with the Ellinwood Police Department. “I saved a lot of lives,” he said.
Bill Steadman served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He was on the USS Midway, the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century. The Midway was decommissioned in San Diego in 1992 and opened as the USS Midway Museum in 2004.
There’s a photo in the library’s exhibit of Steadman and his future wife, Wilma Steitz, sharing an embrace at the train depot in Great Bend in April of 1952.
“I was leaving for the service and she was waiting for me when I got back,” Steadman said. “We’ve been together ever since.”
The exhibit also includes a small white table, set for one with an empty chair, to honor those who have served in America’s Armed Forces, especially those missing in action (MIAs) and those held prisoner of war (POWs). The symbolism of “America’s White Table” is explained.
Poppy-themed artwork by members of Artists at Large is also featured in the exhibit and is available to purchase. Proceeds will go to Kansas Honor Flights.