Drasis Pajeda was named the 2021 Veteran of the Year by the Gretna American Legion Post 216 during its Veterans Day Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 11.
Pajeda is a longstanding member and former commander of the American Legion. He was born in a refugee camp in Germany after his parents fled the Soviet invasion of Lithuania during World War II. Pajeda grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Though drafted into the U.S. Army, upon taking his physical exam he marched down to the Marine Corps recruiter. Pajeda said he wanted to be like John Wayne because “John Wayne was a tough guy.” Plus, the Marine dress uniform was better looking.
After a three-year stint, including a 19-month tour with the 27th Marines in Vietnam, he came to Nebraska for play football at Peru State College. He ended up playing tennis for three years instead. Pajeda worked for the Nebraska National Guard for 25 years. He also worked for TSL trucking.
He looks back fondly on his time with Post 216, from legion softball games with the families on Sunday afternoons to presenting the colors at Friday night football games.
“It has been an honor,” Pajeda said.