WATERLOO, Iowa --- They were separated in service by 40 years but are united in patriotism, heritage and post-military community service.

Roosevelt Taylor and Leona Middleton, two U.S. military veterans who are African-American, will be recognized at the second annual Tribute to Cedar Valley Black Veterans Service with Honor event, from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Union Missionary Baptist Church, 209 Jackson St.

Taylor, a Korean War-era U.S. Army veteran, and Middleton, a 1991 Persian Gulf War-era U.S. Air Force veteran and a Black Hawk County sheriff's deputy, will be recognized for community service.

"I feel honored," Middleton said. "I don't really feel I've done enough to serve my community, but it's good for the community to show they do appreciate what you do," both in military service and later.

The recognition, and the overall event, is to honor all veterans. "I'm sure there's probably veterans out there who have done more than I have that deserve this honor," she said.

Middleton, a 1978 graduate of West High School and graduate of Luther College in Decorah with a degree in business management, enlisted in the Air Force at age 27, fulfilling an urge to follow family members into service.

She served in Texas, Ramstein, Germany, and New York.

She entered the Air Force as an airman and left as a sergeant. She was stationed in Germany during the Gulf War, when concern of possible terrorist activity in Europe was high.

She has served with the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office for 19 years.

"She is an example of someone who went into service with something, paired that with the making of a soldier/airman and came out with a sense of duty to herself, her family, her country, her community and those she has been charged to oversee and blessed to encounter daily," wrote another Air Force veteran and Waterloo native, Dorothy Simpson-Taylor of Indianapolis, in nominating Middleton for recognition.

For Taylor, who was ill and could not be interviewed, the recognition is the latest for his long history of community service. Serving seven years in the Army in the 1950s in the United States and in Europe as a medic, he rose above racism when fights broke out between white and black soldiers shortly after desegregation of the U.S. military.

In a 2004 Courier interview, he recalled one occasion when, stationed in Texas, a parishioner at a church service off base tapped him on his shoulder and politely said, "The colored sit over there."

"Well, I'll be damned," Taylor said. "I walked out and went back to the base." He also once took a white soldier to a black restaurant. Neither of them were waited on, and they left.

Taylor returned to Waterloo in 1957 and worked at John Deere for 35 years. He is a longtime board member of Veridian Credit Union and multiple-time local post commander with Disabled American Veterans. He has been active with 25 boards and voluntary organizations.

World War II and Korean veterans will receive special recognition at the event. A "Soul Repair Seminar" for veterans experiencing spiritual disconnection also will be offered.

For more information, contact Melvina Scott, executive director of the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum, at brooks1948@gmail.com or (319) 433-5028.

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