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I wrote this story several years ago, but I want to share it again for Memorial Day.
A few months ago, Melissa and I were at a Holiday Convenience Store in Two Harbors, MN. In came an elderly gentleman wearing a hat indicating he was a Korean War Veteran. He was about my height but stood much taller than I in stature. There was a swift confidence in his step and a bright, cheerful look about him. I greeted him, "Good Afternoon, sir."
He replied by shaking my hand, "You don't have to call me Sir anymore; I'm retired from the Military." I recall he had a very firm handshake, "I served in Korea and in Viet Nam. My name is just Carl now, and if you're not careful, I might sell you something today!" We shared a good laugh about that.
Although I don't remember his last name. Carl told me he spent his post-military career in sales; that didn't surprise me with his very outgoing personality. He was very familiar with Ottumwa, Iowa, the town I was from; he had been here many times before as he was a hog buyer for the Hormel Company. "When they sold the Ottumwa plant, I was old enough to retire, but I wasn't done working. I had a lot of spit and vinegar left in me, so I kept working buying hogs for Austin, Minnesota. Do you know where that is?" He asked. I assured him I did.
We chatted for a time; he was a lot of fun to talk with. He shared with me that he was 88 years old and had lost his beloved wife about twenty earlier to cancer. His love for her was still evident in his voice. He never remarried, "There could never be another one like her, and Lord knows she was the only one who could put up with me." He laughed.
I could tell he was one of those guys who has been there and done that. Everything along the way was done by a code of high moral standards. I could have listened to his stories for hours.
Carl picked up a newspaper. Reading the headlines, he slapped the front of the paper with his backhand saying, "I didn't get shot up in two different wars and watch my very best friends die for what these S.O.B.'s are doing with this country." Carl's demeanor had changed for a bit as the conversation turned to one of a political nature.
In his eyes, I could see anger, hurt, disgust, and even a twinge of shame. After a few moments, Carl looked at me, "I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?" I said yes, and the conversation turned to happier topics. As we said our goodbyes, I knew I would never forget Carl.
On this Memorial Day, I think about Carl and all those who served in the Military. I offer my prayers for the Souls of those who gave their lives defending our country – our freedom – our world. I pray for the guidance and safety of those who continue to serve and those who will.
Happy Memorial Day, and Thank You, Carl, and to all the men and women who have served in the United States Military! Your service is appreciated.
That story was written on May 27, 2013. Allow me to continue:
A couple months ago, Melissa sent me a message with an obituary attached; "This is Carl, the man you met in Two Harbors years ago. He passed away."
God speed, Carl. Thank you once again for your service.