Judge Loren Collier, who served in the Vietnam War, is one of the veterans honored on banners along East Market Street for the Warsaw Salutes You Military Banner Recognition Program.
Collier’s sister, Leslie Weirich, said Collier came from a military family. His father and uncle were World War II veterans and Collier had several siblings join the military.
Weirich said a big part of his military story was the fact he enlisted in the Marines. When he decided to enlist, he was doing his undergraduate work at Indiana University with a full scholarship. She said he wouldn’t have been drafted at that time because he was in college. He decided to enlist with a year left of his undergraduate degree because he felt it was his duty to do so.
Weirich said their parents didn’t even know Collier had enlisted until they received a letter from him explaining his decision. He was already in boot camp in San Diego at that time.
In his letter, Collier stated he would regret it for the rest of his life if he failed to serve his country “in this hour of need.”
Wife Connie Collier Ker said he served in the Marines from 1967-69 and she thought he was stationed in Vietnam for about a year at Phu Bai. Collier was in Marine intelligence.
Pictured is Loren Collier during his time serving in Vietnam. Photo Provided.
Weirich said she remembers the Marines talking to neighbors and friends of Collier to see how long they knew him and what they knew about him, etc. to get background information on Collier before he was accepted into intelligence. Daughter Kelly Cleland remembers her grandmother saying Collier was concerned about his siblings acting up and jeopardizing his position during that time.
Ker said Collier didn’t say a lot about what he did in intelligence. Weirich said they never knew what Collier saw, but he’d say little things. One of them was Collier, a nailbiter, came home with long nails and when his mother brought it up, Collier said if she knew what he had under his nails at some points, she’d never bite her nails again either.
One thing Weirich remembers is Collier giving strict instructions of what could and couldn’t be sent to him while in the Marines because the Viet Cong could get hold of the packages.
Ker said Collier did receive several medals.
After Collier was discharged from the Marines, he finished his undergraduate degree at Indiana University and his law degree.
Ker said she met Collier after he came back from the war to IU. They were married in 1980. He ended up working at law firm in Warsaw. Cleland said her father worked at that law firm for a handful of years. When a judgeship position became available, Collier’s law office nominated him for the position, thinking he’d do a good job.
He was sworn in as a judge in Kosciusko County in 1977 at 29, which was the youngest age for a judge in Indiana at the time. He was given the oath of office by then Gov. Otis R. Bowen. He retired due to health reasons in August 1979.
He died from complications from Agent Orange on Nov. 27, 1980. He has two daughters and four grandchildren.
Collier is one of 25 military personnel or veterans with banners on Market Street. Of the banners currently on Market Street, there are 15 Army, three Navy, one Coast Guard, three Marines and three Air Force, according to Megan Stone, who is currently in charge of the program and mother of Elizabeth, who started the program as part of the Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy program.
The conflicts represented with the banners include two veterans from World War II, 11 from Vietnam, two from Korea, one from the Gulf War, three from the Global War on Terrorism, four active duty and two with a conflict not listed.
Two honorees were killed in action, Willard DeBolt, Army; and Homer Murphy Army, WWII, Battle of the Bulge.
Richard Irwin, who served in the Army during Vietnam, received two Bronze Stars.
George Barnhart, who served in the Army during WWII, received a Medal Distinguished Flying Cross Army Air Corps from the Air Division prior to the U.S. Air Force.
Danny Boggs, who served in the Army during Vietnam, received a Bronze Star with Valor and Combat Infantry Air Medal.
Active duty personnel with banners are Ayrton James, Navy; Colten Stafford, Navy; Lucas Rhodes, Air Force; and L. Michael Schlitt, Army.
Two retired officers who served their career in the military and are retired are Steve McKinley, Navy; and Mark Skibowski, Air Force.
Applications for the banner program can be sent to [email protected]. The first 25 banners to qualify for the program will be accepted for the next round of the program. The banners are put up before Veterans Day along Market Street and will be taken down in a year and will be given back to family members.
To qualify for the program, honorees must be a former or current resident of the greater Warsaw area and be serving or have served in the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard or National Guard.