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West Valley City Journal

West Valley Veterans Day ceremony recognizes America’s defenders of freedom

Dec 04, 2022 11:49AM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

Jury Toone recalls “chasing Hitler” in Poland and Germany as an Army soldier in the late stages of World War II.

That’s one of the memories the Army veteran approaching 98 years old has from his service in the field artillery of the 70th Infantry Division. He and several dozen other men and women who served in each branch of the United States Armed Forces were honored at the annual Veterans Day program in November at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City.

“You lost friends, you made friends,” said Toone, a Bountiful resident. “You realized how lucky you were. The Lord was right with us.”

Toone says he still has a couple of war buddies left, one in Kentucky, another in Texas, but it’s been three years since he last talked to them. They are among an estimated 167,000 veterans still alive today of the 16 million Americans who served in “The War to End all Wars,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Seated next to Jury Toone was his son, Kent of Centerville, a Navy veteran who served during the end of the Vietnam War and a few years after that in Okinawa, Japan. Like the humility exhibited by many servicemen and women, the younger Toone sees nothing special about himself for doing what he did for his country. “I just did my job,” he said.

“I hope that something people see in veterans prompts them to serve their country and be patriots,” he added. “When you put your life, your blood, sweat, and tears on the line, you love your country more and it’s more dear to you.”

Lloyd Steele of West Valley City gave 40 years of his life serving America—four years as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, where he was shot down in 1973, and 36 ensuing years in the Army. He appreciates the growing recognition of vets in recent years. “At times through my military career, the veterans weren’t really celebrated or honored, especially during the Vietnam War,” said Steele, 70. “When communities come together to celebrate, it helps us that have already served and the ones that are still serving. Those people are still defending what we fought for.”

On the home front, Steele’s wife did the best she could raising their kids while he was away. “It was pretty difficult to take,” Veon Steele said of the uncertainty that comes with military service. She noted that like many veterans, her husband spoke little of his combat experience. “He kept the military separate from me and the children to protect us.” 

The keynote speaker at the ceremony was retired Sgt. First Class Layne Morris, who is now West Valley City’s Director of Community Preservation. He recounted the experience of losing sight in one eye from shrapnel during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002.