John Heller has told his war story hundreds of times. As the last Michigan survivor of the USS Indianapolis, sunk by a Japanese submarine in World War II, Heller was honored to be one of the first to receive Oakland County's new veteran identification card.
"I think (the ID card) is the greatest thing in the world," Heller, of Clawson, said Thursday.
County officials hosted several veterans as officials unveiled the new card Thursday morning at a special ceremony at the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Auditorium where Heller, 84, led the Pledge of Allegiance and shared his story with guests. The event attracted about 75 veterans from across Oakland County, many of whom received their card after the ceremony. There are 73,000 veterans living in Oakland County.
Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. said he spearheaded the initiative after hearing from several veterans who wished for something they could carry daily that recognized their service. The new identification card will make it easier for veterans to prove their service and receive special discounts at stores and restaurants, Bullard said.
"As this becomes more and more known, I think more businesses will give veterans discounts," he said.
A few other counties in Michigan have adopted the veteran identification card, including Macomb and Livingston."I think this will spread throughout the state," Bullard said.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said he was delighted to be able to provide identification cards to veterans. Patterson, who is a U.S. Army veteran, spoke briefly about his service between 1962-64. He also had his new veteran identification card on hand.
"If we can give (veterans) any kind of recognition, I think it's long overdue," Patterson said.
There was a long line of veterans at the clerk's office after the ceremony. Philip Stimino, of Brandon Township, said he was excited to get the new identification card so he could use it for discounts at Lowes and Home Depot.
"It's a good idea," said Stimino, who served in the U.S. Army from 1966-68.
Brooks Roger, of Milford, was also eager to receive the card on Thursday.
"I was pleased to hear that I was able to get it," said Roger who served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1957-60.
How to get a veteran ID card
Veterans can purchase a card for $10 at the Oakland County Clerk's Office, 1200 N. Telegraph in Pontiac. To be eligible, veterans must have filed requisite paperwork to the clerk's office or have unfiled discharge papers with them when they visit the office. A valid state identification card is also needed to purchase the card.