BATESVILLE, Ind. -- Leon Pulskamp was just a teenager when he enlisted in the United States Army. His experiences serving in Vietnam changed his life forever.
"The fighting, you never forget that," he said Thursday. "It stays with you your whole life."
Non-veterans in Batesville, Indiana, might not be able to understand the totality of former servicemembers' experiences and sacrifices, but the city government is doing its best to honor them over Memorial Day weekend.
That payback starts with memorial banners draped around the city's downtown. Each will display the name of a past, current or fallen military service members alongside their picture and the branch in which they served.
"We've had this opportunity to pay back those people who have spent time in the military, who have sacrificed more than most," Mayor Mike Bettice said.
By Thursday, Bettice's office had received close to 100 applications from people who believed their loved ones belonged on the banners, which will hang downtown from Memorial Day to Veterans Day.
Jim Placke nominated his father, a 93-year-old veteran of World World II who spent four months as a German prisoner of war.
"He's never really accepted credit for anything he did in the military," Place said.
Former servicemembers and their families across the city shared stories of their loved ones' sacrifices and of finding "a path throughout life" among the ranks of the United States Armed Forces.
The tide of goodwill toward veterans is a welcome one for Pulskamp, who didn't experience anything like it after his service. Many soldiers in the Vietnam era came home to a country that, while reevaluating its national relationship with war, often received returning participants of that war coolly at best.
"We were never noticed before or appreciated," he said. "This, I thinks something special."