For the second time, two veterans to receive award

Walter Lowrey was named the 2017 Distinguished Veteran and served as the Paducah Veterans Parade grand marshal.

Sun files

When Charles Turok and Harley Dixon receive their Distinguished Veteran awards at Monday's American Hero celebration, it will mark the second time, and the second year in a row, the city has so honored two veterans in the same year.

Both Turok and Dickson served during World War II -- an era whose veterans are rapidly disappearing.

In November 1997, when the award was first established and presented to World War I veteran Bill Bagwell, it was that war's vets whose numbers were decreasing.

Each year since then, the city has chosen at least one veteran from a pool of applications to receive the award, which city parks and recreation director Mark Thompson said aims to recognize veterans who also served their communities in various ways following their military service.

"It has been humbling to see what these veterans have done both during their service and when they've come home," said Thompson, who came on staff at the city in the early 2000s but served on the committee that determined the award's winners from the beginning.

"They're all very deserving," he said.

Air Force vet Walter Lowrey, who received the award in 2017, said he's been impressed with how west Kentucky recognizes its veterans.

"After all these years to be honored for what I did, it was quite an honor."

Lowrey, 95, moved to the area in the 1960s to work at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

During his just over two years in the military, he served as a gunner on a bomber plane and was shot down over Germany, where he was held as a prisoner of war for seven months.

For Lowrey, talking about his time in the service wasn't easy until he got a computer and typed out several articles detailing his experiences. "The kids didn't know anything about it, very little," he said.

Writing the articles "seemed kind of a release of pressure."

Lowrey doesn't prop himself up as a hero, and his idea of serving his community is helping neighbors with maintenance or electric needs.

Thompson said many local veterans, especially from less recent wars, are quiet about their service and came back just wanting to raise their families in peace.

"To see those folks, as humble as they were, receiving their awards and to quietly go about making contributions to their community … There's some of them that you would never have known had faced battle," Thompson said.

"It was service. It wasn't themselves."

The city also gives out a Patriot Award for non-veterans who have helped to serve the veteran community.

This year's recipient will be Dee Dee Lindsey, who created a hunting lodge for veterans and active service members.

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