By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A Yukon veteran proudly escorted a World War II prisoner of war honored last Sunday during a “God and Country” ceremony.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Rick Cacini was invited to participate in the special event by Pastor Dr. Allen Domelle of Maranatha Baptist Church, 2800 N Divis Ave. in Bethany.
Honored veteran was church member Leonard Curtis, 98, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army serving overseas during World War II. Curtis was a member of the machine gun squadron with the Thunderbirds, 45th Infantry Division from 1940-45.
Having grown up around Tulsa, Curtis joined the U.S. Army at age 18, serving in Italy, France and Germany during the war. He fought in the Battle of Anzio during the Italian Campaign of World War II.
Curtis is the last of seven children after his 102-year-old sister recently passed away.
Lt. Col. Cacini walked and stood alongside the World War II hero during last Sunday’s “God and Country” ceremony, which preceded Maranatha Baptist Church’s 10:50 a.m. service.
Cacini, founder and curator of the Yukon Veterans Museum, escorted Curtis to the front of the church carrying the U.S. flag. The two Army veterans stood proudly in front of the congregation during the prayer, Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem.
“Walking down that aisle with this man was a great honor for me,” Cacini said. “I want our children to understand and appreciate what veterans like Leonard Curtis went through to protect our country and ensure the freedoms we enjoy today.
“They faced a real challenge and risked their lives for us, not knowing if they’d get to see their families again. Just think about what they went through on the field of battle. We all need to show the proper love and respect for these heroes. It was a great honor to be with Mr. Curtis last Sunday.”
Cacini served the U.S. in special operations during police actions in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East.
Dr. Domelle thanked both Cacini and Curtis for their service to the country.
“These men represent the patriotism of our country,” Domelle said. Cacini and Curtis defended the U.S. in different eras, and the pastor added they both “have done a great job honoring our flag and country.”