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Litchfield Cavo Honors Our Veterans

This year, as we proudly recognize our past, present and future veterans for their service and sacrifices, we have invited Litchfield Cavo attorneys and staff to share their personal experiences as a veteran or veteran’s family member, in their own words.

Donna Baker, Director

IL | Chicago Office

I value both my niece’s, LTJG Caitlyn Strader Surface Warfare Officer, and my nephew’s, BU2 Michael Strader, military service and their decisions to make serving in the United States Navy their chosen careers. These two individuals each made a personal choice to stand up and serve our nation. Their actions embody the twin American spirits of freedom and responsibility, and I honor them both for their service to our country and for the privilege of our American citizenship.

Donna Baker's niece LTJG Caitlyn Strader, US Navy (2023)

LTJG Caitlyn Strader (pictured)

Andrew S. Connell, Jr., Partner
FL | Fort Lauderdale Office

My experience as a Marine Corps Reservist and in the Florida Army National Guard was markedly different than that of our nation’s active-duty veterans. The occasional transition from college student to reservist provided me a welcome change of pace, and the Reserve GI Bill is a great incentive with terrific financial benefit for college students. Plus, I had the privilege and unforgettable opportunity to participate in parachute training at Fort Benning, Georgia. At the time, I couldn’t believe that the government was actually willing to pay me to go parachuting! I still consider this one of the highlights of my military experience.

Of course, the military isn’t all fun. Apart from training, my service consisted mostly of one weekend per month and two weeks per year—and that certainly fit in nicely with my then-lifestyle as a college student. Though, there definitely were moments when I questioned my decision to enlist, particularly when being tear-gassed as part of basic training.

In retrospect, I now value my military experience as a learning opportunity as it teaches discipline and fosters one’s ability to persevere, even under adverse conditions. These lessons are often repeated as a practicing litigator handling challenging cases.

Thank you to all of those who served before me, with me and to those who have followed.

Andy Connell, Jr. Veteran

Andrew Connell, Jr., Partner (pictured)

Thomas M. Crawford, Partner
IL | Chicago Office

I come from a family that strongly believes in service to our country. My father was a 21 year United States Army veteran during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, one of my Uncles who served in the Army was killed in Italy during WWII, another Uncle was a Marine and fought at the Battle of Peleliu during the same war, my cousin made a career as a U.S. Air Force service member, and my nephew is proudly currently serving in the Army at Ft. Drum.

This is a dedication to my dad, Fred Crawford. If you notice I don’t resemble him; he adopted me when he married my mom. He served 21 years and 5 months in the Army before being honorably discharged in 1972 as a First Sergeant. He was stationed at numerous bases in the U.S., once in Germany (3 years) and three times in Korea (6 years). He taught me what it meant to be a man and to be an American, including respect for the flag and to display it on every holiday.

As a small boy in Iowa, I remember soldiers from his various unit visiting him. All of them called him “Top”. I had assumed it was a nickname. I learned that it wasn’t a nickname just for him once I joined the Army ten years later. As the First Sergeant, it meant you were the top sergeant of the company. His word was law and you acted without question. That is how my brother and I were raised – early mornings, hospital corner beds, and inspections. As a teenager, that was not something I appreciated.

Then in 1982, I decided to serve in the military. Both “First Blood” (Rambo) and “An Officer and a Gentleman” were released that year. I wanted to fly jets but since I had no college degree, I couldn’t be an officer. So, I joined the Army and decided to be all that I could be. I became airborne and eventually became part of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) which was based out of, then, Fort Bragg, NC.

Just after jump school, I came home on leave. I had the best moment with my dad. He said that he knew I wasn’t going to make a career of the Army but he told me how proud he was that I followed in his footsteps. I don’t think I ever saw him cry but he had tears in his eyes when he said that. It still brings out tears when I think of that moment.

To all my fellow veterans, thank you for your service.

Tom Crawford's father First Sgt. Fred Crawford, US Army   

Sgt. Fred Crawford, US Army (far right in photo at left); Tom Crawford (pictured right)

Michael J. Dugan, Partner
CT | Simsbury Office

My Dad, Sgt. Bernard J. Dugan, served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific during WWII. He was drafted prior to Pearl Harbor and was stationed in Ft. Sill, OK when Pearl Harbor happened. Three weeks later, he and several thousand troops sailed from San Francisco to Australia, zig-zagging to avoid enemy submarines (the troop ship that took him to Australia was later torpedoed and sunk). He was stationed in Australia for a period and was then transferred to New Guinea. His base in New Guinea was subject to a massive enemy air raid. He survived his Army service but was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. He returned to the U.S. in the Summer of 1944.

The New Guinea air raid on Port Moresby took place on April 11 and 12 of 1942. It was the largest Japanese air raid since Pearl Harbor—94 planes hit the harbor on April 11, 1942, and 174 planes hit Port Moresby on April 12. That generation did not talk about their war service much. I would occasionally hear my Dad quietly talking to some of his veteran friends when they were at the house, but they would stop when others walked into the room.

He started to open up a little in his last few years. He remembered the air raid vividly. He was hunkered down in a trench as the planes flew over strafing the base. He said that they were flying so low that he could see the faces of the pilots.

My Dad passed away in 2016, one month shy of his 98th birthday. Below is a photo of him in Australia, probably taken in 1942.

Michael Dugan's father Sgt. Bernard J. Dugan, US Army (circa 1942)

Sgt. Bernard J. Dugan (pictured)

Jennifer A. Durovka, Legal Secretary
WI | Milwaukee Office

In my Mom’s family, we honor and remember her Uncle Charles Knaeble (he is also her Godfather). Uncle Charles was killed two and a half months after my Mom was born. I have the little Victory Mail that he sent to Grandma acknowledging my Mom’s birth and joking about what a world traveler he was becoming.

Uncle Charles was born on August 31, 1917, in Robbinsdale, MN, the fourth child, and second son, into a family that would eventual total 10 children. He joined the Army in February of 1941 and was sent overseas in October of 1942. He was a Technician Fourth Grade in the 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division. Uncle Charles was involved in the invasion of North Africa in 1942, the Invasion of Sicily in 1943 and saw duty in England before the Day Invasion of France. He was killed in action in Percy, France on August 2, 1944, when his tank was hit by German artillery. Originally listed as MIA, his body was never recovered and he is commemorated in perpetuity at Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France.

In 1947, the Charles Knaeble VFW Post 494 was registered and established in Crystal, MN. Many family reunions have been held at the VFW Post. Uncle Charles name was also added to my great-grand parents grave stone upon their deaths in the late 1960’s. The family continues to keep Charles’ name and memory alive by giving his name to the first born male in each family (yes, there are a lot of Charlie’s and Chuck’s in the family). Additionally, Uncle Charles and I share the same birthday, as I was born on what would have been his 50th birthday.

Additionally, I would like to acknowledge Crpl. Robert Durovka, United States Marine Corps., my husband, who volunteered to serve our Country from 1982-1987 after graduating from high school.

Jennifer Durovka's Uncle Charles Knaeble (11-2023)

Charles Knaeble (pictured)

Charlanae Matthews, Recruiting Specialist
IL | Chicago Office

Charlanae Matthews, a recruiting specialist at Litchfield Cavo LLP and former Navy Petty Officer Third Class, has been in the legal field for more than four years. She credits her father, an Army Veteran, as the initial reason she decided to enlist with the United State Navy. Unfortunately, Lanae lost her father before her first birthday, and says she joined the armed forces as an honorable way to continue his legacy.

When she turned 18, Lanae enlisted with the U.S. Navy as a Reservist and started in the “delayed entry program”. Doing so enabled Lanae to attend the first semester in college but with the understanding that she would join the Navy eight months later. At that time it would have been her second semester, but instead she would start boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Station near the Illinois/Wisconsin border.

Lanae recalls her first week in boot camp, appropriately called hell week, living up to its description. As an 18 years old, she was nervous, scared, and started to second guess her decision. She recalled that her first weeks included recruit division commanders screaming orders at her face and being sleep deprived up to 48 hours. In addition to the mental and physical anguish endured at that time, prior to year 2015 recruits could not have “long hair” that went past the shoulders which meant Lanae was expected to cut her hair—a hallmark of her appearance—and she did.

Throughout her Navy career, Lanae was stationed at various Navy Operational Support Centers across the United States, including Chicago, IL, Indianapolis, IN and Columbus, GA. She had completed a total of eight years of service before deciding to hang up her “white Dixie cup” hat.

Lanae had her first child while an active Reservist and admitted that she wasn’t emotionally prepared for being separated from her baby, and that ultimately was the only reason she left the active duty. Though, it was during her time as a Navy Reservist that she joined another Union—the Department of Corrections, her first introduction to the legal field, and later attended and  graduated college and started her career in the corporate world.

Lanae says that she often reminisces about her military experience and that she developed many friendships and relationships with people of cultures from all over the world. She admits that she initially joined the United States military as a way to honor her fathers’ legacy, though she now recognizes that she also joined forces to have a stronger sense of belonging to a larger community and be a part of the best team in the United States military.

While reflecting on her past she stated, “My experience in the military has taught me to look at our country in a way that only veterans would understand. I wouldn’t change it for any other experience in the WORLD. Happy Veterans Day!”

Charlanae Matthews Veteran 2

Charlanae Matthews, Recruiting Specialist (pictured)

Kathy Mosher, Legal Secretary
MO | Kansas City Office

My grandfather Eugene Loren served in World War I. He was charged with making certain that President Thomas Woodrow Wilson’s horse was well taken care of and was ready for the President at any given time. My uncle, Earl Loren, was among the brave men who landed on the beaches in Normandy during World War II. My other uncles, James Loren and Clinton Loren served in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Each of these soldiers are now deceased, and I miss their spirit and legacy terribly.

Mosher Veteran

Eugene Loren (pictured)

Coryne Taylor, 
UT | Salt Lake City Office

My grandfather, Kerwin Klinkenborg, enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1962. His duty station was Colorado Springs, CO. His unit was deployed to Vietnam. Staff Sergeant Klinkenborg had to remain in Colorado Springs but would have unhesitatingly went with fellow platoon members. Kerwin served six years and was honorably discharged in 1968.

My Grandfather also served eight years with the Honor Guard and participated in ceremonies at local cemeteries each Memorial Day to honor and mourn the US military personnel who died while serving. He passed away on January 20, 2018 and will forever be remembered for his dedication to his country, family, and friends who are all exceedingly proud of the sacrifices he made for the United States of America and all of its citizens.

Coryne Taylor - Grandpa Kerwin Klinkenborg

Kerwin Klinkenborg (pictured)

Jean Wierzbinski, Central Region Administrative Staff Supervisor and Legal Secretary
IL | Chicago Office

My father, Douglas C. Longdon, enlisted in the Navy in 1943 at age 20, and was on active duty until 1946. He held the rank of Radar Man 2nd class at his departure. He was first assigned to the destroyer escort USS Sederstrom and later an attack transport, USS Garrard.

I recently found a box of his navy souvenirs, among other things that we had never seen. We found bits and pieces of metal from his ship after some active duty, his bowie knife, some ID tags for his gear and a flag. We also found his journal from every port he visited, along with little bags of sand and shells from each. There were also receipts for every show he attended while on leave.

I was fortunate to wind up with his navy uniform, which as a silly kid, I wore as a Halloween costume when I was 13. It was the heavy old-fashioned blue wool with the 13 button front flap on the pants. That uniform is now in my oldest daughter’s hands and except for his navy cap, it is in perfect condition. She also has a special connection to the military as her significant other is a lifetime Marine who has seen much active duty in some not nice situations.

Going through Dad’s souvenirs gave us an insight to our father that we never had before. There were photos of his shipmates, people we never met, or even heard of. Beyond yelling for my brothers and me “all hands on deck” when he wanted us present, he rarely talked about his time in the U.S. Navy or any action he saw. It was interesting to see that part of his life.

The photo below was taken the day he graduated and got his orders for his first ship.

Jean Wierzbinski's father Douglas C. Longdon, US Navy (circa 1943)

Douglas C. Longdon (pictured)

Mary Beth Canty, Attorney
IL | Chicago Office

My great grandfather, David E. Mitchell, served in the Red Cross during World War II, and was one of few non-combatants awarded a Purple Heart. My maternal grandfather, David A. Mitchell, served in the United States Army during WWII. My paternal grandfather, Bennie L. Canty, served in the Navy during WWII and in Korea, and was awarded a Purple Heart. Benjamin K. Canty, my father, served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years and was awarded medals for Valor. Each of these individuals were my heroes, and I proudly honor each every-day hero for their service to our country each day.

Gregory S. Keltner, Partner
MO | St. Louis Office

Capt. Hillary Keltner, United States Air Force, daughter of Gregory Keltner, a partner in our Litchfield Cavo St. Louis, MO office, elected to attend the United States Air Force Academy because she was recruited to play on the women’s Division I volleyball team and also wanted a challenging academic experience.

Upon graduation from the Academy in 2015, Hillary was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the US Air Force. During the last 8 years on active duty, Hillary has served as a Satellite Operator at Schriever AFB in Colorado Springs, CO, a Program Manager at Los Angeles AFB in El Segundo, CA, and an Instructor of Management at the US Air Force Academy, CO. She earned her MBA from Auburn University in December of 2018. Currently, Hillary is being sponsored by the Air Force Institute of Technology as a PhD student majoring in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources in the College of Business at Florida State University where she is studying gender issues within the military.

When Hillary decided to attend the Academy, Greg and his wife Joan were concerned about how she would respond to the disciplined atmosphere of the Academy and also balance the vigorous academic and military demands of the Academy while participating in the Academy’s Division I volleyball program. As her achievements have been remarkable, Greg, Joan and their other two daughters are very proud of Hillary and her ongoing commitment to the mission of the Air Force.

Sherri Kulik, Legal Secretary
IL | Chicago Office

My nephew, Staff Sargent David P. Nowaczyk, honorably served in the United States Army. David was killed on April 15, 2012, while serving his country on what was to be his third and final mission. While serving in the U.S. Army, David was awarded two bronze stars, one with valor, two army commendation medals, one national defense service medal, and received a purple heart medal that was awarded posthumously. I remain incredibly proud of my nephew David, all the individuals who have chosen to serve our nation, and the families that have sacrificed for our freedoms.