As a belly gunner in World War II, Don Tate flew 50 missions over Europe, then came home. About 66 percent of the World War II belly gunners never lived to tell their stories. Don did live, but he never told his stories. He married, raised six kids, worked hard. But he rarely talked about the war.
When Don did start talking about the war at a family reunion in the early 1990s, he had company. Three of his four brothers, all veterans of the same war, were there to swap stories. Kenneth, James, Dean and Don, were all in the war at the same time. One brother, Bob, was left back home in Balaton, Minnesota with Grandma Eva Louise to run the farm.
This year, nephew Joe Tate of Milwaukee, decided it was time to pay tribute to the Tate boys. His dad, James, and an inspirational uncle, Dean, had already passed away.
He bought a billboard in Lincoln, Neb., where Don lives. It has a picture of Don on it, and a simple message "Thank A Vet Memorial Day."
"I wanted to accomplish two things," says Tate. "I wanted to say thanks to my dad and my uncles for the sacrifices they made for our country. And I wanted to get other Americans to thank a vet on Memorial Day or Veteran's Day, or when you see them selling poppies at the grocery store."
The billboard, at the corner of 22nd and Highway 2 in Lincoln, will be up until the first week of June. The board was designed by Milwaukee ad agency Whole Hog Productions.
Says Tate, "It is such a simple thing to do, but it is so appreciated by the vets. I wish I would have done a board for my dad while he was alive."