When I think of February, I think of two things. I call it the month of “love” and “hearts.” As I began the month, it was like any other. Not until an assignment from our local paper came along, did I find that the month would have deep and lasting impact in growing my love for a group of men and their hearts of service and love for their country and family.
Our county (Custer) is organizing our first ever “Korean War Veteran Hero Flight” in conjunction with neighboring Buffalo County. The main organizers for the event include my own parents, and the managing editor for our newspaper. So, when the opportunity came to begin interviewing our local veterans, I jumped at the chance.
Meet Corporal Raymond Kolbo of rural Callaway, NE.
Their stories have been featured weekly in the Hometown Hero sections of the Custer County Chief. I have spent a couple of hours each week with these men, taking notes and snapping photos as I prepare to tell their story to the world. Most of them admit sharing things that have never been shared beyond the walls of their homes or at a local VFW meeting. As they close their eyes and relive details of their drafted service, they often pause and say “Please don’t write that” or “There is no need to share that with anyone”. Its times like those, that I use my old lip-biting method. The little thing you do when you know it’s not an appropriate time to cry. I have used it several times a week this month.
Meet Corporal Bob Anderson, of Broken Bow, NE.
I have fallen in love with these men, and their families. Their stories of courage, dedication, bravery, commitment, humor, and love have touched my heart in a way that is indescribable. They have shared intimate stories of how they coped with being away from their brides, the loneliness and worry of serving America in a dangerous place, the fear of leaving small town Nebraska for the great unknown, and the gratitude they felt for surviving, while equally feeling guilt for being a survivor. Korea is often called the “Forgotten War” because it was sandwiched in between WWII and Vietnam. These courageous men were drafted into service for approx. 21 months, often blending right back into their communities when their service was complete. Without the photos and memories captured in scrapbooks and letters, it might often feel like it never happened. Perhaps, in a way, the scrapbooks are a living reminder of what was, a justification for the time away, another scar, like those both seen and unseen.
Meet Corporal Leo Peterson of Weissert, NE
America’s Veterans have never been in the news as much as they are now. Hollywood has joined the discussion in creation of films such as “American Sniper” that has highlighted the horror of war, and the lasting impacts made upon our heroes. I saw the movie, and am now reading the book in quantities that I can stomach. I have friends and family who have suffered and still suffer from the effects of their service. If I can impart anything to my peers who do not fully understand the importance of caring for our Veterans, I implore you to educate yourself, and do what you can to lend to their care.
Meet Corporal Leonard Lindly of Dunning, NE.
For this reason alone, I am honored to be helping prepare the way for our Korean War Veterans to take a trip in April to Washington DC to see the memorial erected in their honor. I am delighted that so many of them have stepped out of the shadows and allow the rest of us to recognize their service to America. I know that the trip will provide healing for some, validation for others, and a great deal of “fun” for a group of men most deserving. And, I hope that the efforts mobilize us to keep on doing things like this for our Veterans of the future.
Thank you for allowing me to introduce my new friends…these men who have stolen my heart. I will continue to interview new Veterans each week, through March. You may read about them in the Custer County Chief. And, if your time allows, I invite you to the Broken Bow VFW this Sunday afternoon from 2-4 to support our fundraising efforts by enjoying pie and ice cream. You will also meet these heroes in person, and may thank them for their service. Thank you. God Bless America.