Sandra Dillinger, Sen. Todd Young, medals

Sandra Dillinger and U.S. Sen. Todd Young display World War II medals earned by her late father, Robert Egli, in front of his framed U.S. Army uniform inside Sandra D’s restaurant in Auburn on Aug. 2.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana mentioned a local family when he spoke on the Senate floor Thursday ahead of Veterans Day.

A Republican and U.S. Marine veteran, Young shared the stories of two Hoosiers — Robert Egli, a World War II veteran from northeast Indiana whose family recently received a Bronze Star on his behalf, and Lance Cpl. Alec Terwiske, a Marine killed in Afghanistan.

“In August, I traveled to a tiny diner in Auburn, Indiana, to present a military service medal that was nearly 75 years in the making,” Young began. “Over the last few months, I’ve thought a lot about that moment at Sandra D’s cafe and what it meant to me. As we approach Veterans Day, I’d like to share those lessons.”

Young continued: “It takes a special person to take up arms in defense of our country, a belief in a cause greater than oneself.

“That very belief makes me think back to that cafe in Auburn. Sandra D’s father, Robert Egli, was a World War II veteran who survived the war. He lived a long and happy life back home in Indiana. And I was proud to help Sandra recover her father’s missing Bronze Star.

“During a battle in the Second World War, Robert’s unit saved the lives of 511 American prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater. His actions allowed them to return home, marry their sweethearts, start a family, and live the American dream. Now, those hundreds of Americans have children and grandchildren who are alive today as a result of his beautiful act of courage, patriotism, and sacrifice.”

On Aug. 2, Young presented a replacement of Egli’s medals to Sandra Dillinger, who co-owns the Auburn restaurant with her husband, Bentley. Actually not a “tiny diner,” Sandra D’s Italian Garden is a small, highly rated fine-dining establishment on South Main Street.

Dillinger keeps a photo of her father in his Army uniform on a mantle inside the restaurant. When two Army Rangers from Idaho who were dining there took an interest in the photo, she told them that several of her father’s medals were missing. After leaving the restaurant, they contacted Young’s office, leading to his August visit to replace the medals.

Dillinger’s father fought behind enemy Japanese lines during 1944 and 1945 with the 138-member Alamo Scouts. Every enlisted man in the Alamo Scouts was awarded a Bronze Star for heroic service, heroic achievement and meritorious achievement in a combat zone, Young said.

In Thursday’s Senate speech, Young said he wears a memorial bracelet that honors Lance Cpl. Alec Terwiske. Alec was a fellow Marine from the small town of Dubois. On Sept. 3, 2012, he was killed in Afghanistan.

“His mom, Sandy, asked me to wear this bracelet to honor his memory, and I do so proudly every day,” Young said.

Young also spoke about his legislation to assist veterans.

“The Senate has already taken up, and passed, many pieces of bipartisan, common-sense legislation, including the VA MISSION Act, which I cosponsored and was proud to see become law. This law dramatically improved the way our veterans receive care,” Young said.

“We have also taken steps to speed up the appeals process for veterans through the VA Appeals Modernization Act, and to improve the way our veterans are cared for in nursing homes, and provide urgently needed support for veterans who may be contemplating suicide,” he added.

“This year, I have also introduced the VETS Safe Travel Act to provide TSA PreCheck benefits to those veterans who have been severely wounded on the battlefield. The VETS Safe Travel Act would help 70,000 amputees, 100,000 paralyzed, and 130,000 blind veterans, who are currently subjected to a rigorous and demeaning screening process when traveling,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this legislation has been languishing in the House, and its delay means veterans in need are left waiting. Before the House takes another recess week, they should take up and pass this legislation. Our veterans have more than earned it.”

Young concluded, “We have made significant strides for our veterans in recent years, but we must always keep striving to do more. George Washington said, ‘The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war — no matter how justified — shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.’”

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