Editor's note: The following column, though not typical content for Plastics News, seemed appropriate on the occasion of Memorial Day, from the president of the industry's largest plastics trade association.
It is not for nothing that the Midwest is called America's Heartland. While originally referring to agriculture, the phrase has come to mean something more.
To me, born and raised in Indiana, it also stands for the values of a region that for more than 100 years has been a leader not only in agriculture, but in industry, education, the arts, architecture and nearly all forms of commercial creativity — including, of course, the nation's dynamic plastics industry.
But as it has grown in population, it seems to me that the Midwest has retained its identity and its culture better than some other parts of the country. This culture is rooted in the farms where many of us were born, where children quickly learned the habits of rising before dawn and sharing in the farm work before walking a mile or more to school.
It is a culture still focused on family, friends, community — on being a good neighbor, on helping those in need, on serving your country without looking for any special recognition or rewards.
This is an America that doesn't make the headlines. But I like to think that deep down, it is what this country is all about. It is what gives us our strength as a nation.
These thoughts came to mind as I bid farewell recently to a man who, to me, represented the very best of these Midwestern values. A child of the Depression, he grew up on the family farm. He was in high school when World War II came along and requested early graduation so that, at 17, he could fight for his country.
He was trained as a tail-gunner on a B-24 and sent to a base in Italy. He fought in Italy, Germany and the Balkans, and was awarded the Air Medal with five Bronze Stars along with the Good Conduct Medal.
After the war he returned home, became an electrician, raised a family, and devoted the rest of his life to his family and his community. He was active in the American Legion for more than 55 years and for more than 20 years, until his death at 80, was the Veterans Service Officer for his county, aiding veterans, their widows and families. He was also very active in his church and the local Knights of Columbus.
By today's standards, his was not a glamorous life. It was a life of service, freely given, to his country and his community. A life dedicated to making the world a better place, to the best of his ability. A modest, very Midwestern life, lived close to home, where everyone in his community knew him and knew they could call on him for help in time of need, and that help would be freely given, with him asking nothing in return.
In the best sense, his was also a very American life, typical of the many heroes who live quietly among us, giving much, asking little, and providing the strong sinews that hold our American society together and enable us to face and overcome the many challenges of our times.
They are not celebrities. We do not see them on television. But they play a very important, often underestimated role in the life of our nation.
Bob Carteaux lived in the small farming community of Avilla in northeast Indiana, where he was born.
When he passed away on Feb. 23 of this year, he was mourned by his wife of 55 years, a sister, two brothers, a son, three daughters, 11 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and a grateful community. His was an exemplary life, well lived.
He was loved by all who knew him. It was a special privilege to be his son.