EVERY DAY IS VETERANS DAY
By Jan Kays, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 13, 2015
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It's an early recall Friday morning at work. Phone rings. Really, you're kidding, already? A little grumpy, I responded, "may I help you?"
Instead of 'exercise, exercise, exercise', I was treated to a story.
"Hi, this is Mike, I'm calling from New York," said the gentleman on the phone. "I hope you can help. I have a dear friend, Joe, who was a draftee during the Korean War in 1950. Joe travelled by train to Camp Cooke Army base for boot camp. He made many friends on that three day train ride from New York to California."
Mike continued with Joe's story.
"Joe told me how his dad used to ship care packages, often hollowing out Italian bread to hide a bottle of booze, and remembering what it felt like to finally come home and walk up the stairs into his mother's arms," said Mike. "Then, 12 to 15 years later, the mailman delivered a letter regarding the 140th Tank Battalion, the unit Joe served with for almost two years in Korea as a gunner. A memorial was being built to commemorate the service of those who trained at Camp Cooke. For 100 dollars, his name would be etched in a brick and added to the Korean War Memorial. In the early 60's, 100 dollars was a week's wages, but to Joe this was important."
Mike said that he had heard this story many times, but this time he really listened.
"It's always been Joe's dream to visit that memorial and see his brick, but Joe's 88th birthday is next week, and he probably won't have the opportunity," said Mike. "Would you be able to take a photo of Joe's plaque and send it to me so I can have the photo framed for a birthday?"
Easy enough, I thought.
A beautiful clear day, perfect for taking a photo. I stared at the memorial, where did I start to find Joe's plaque amongst all of those plaques? And there it was. Joe's plaque, the very first plaque at the very front of the memorial. The photos turned out perfect and off they went to Mike.
Then Mike told me about Lenny, Joe's friend, who by coincidence, would be in New York on Joe's birthday. They met on that train ride from New York, and remained friends for 65 years. Lenny didn't get a plaque, he had a family to support. Emails were exchanged and now Lenny's name will be added, on the plaque right next to Joe's.
"He (Joe) was in shock when he got his gift. Joe did his deepest crying when I read these Facebook posts." Mike wrote. Joe's story was being followed on Facebook.
Cherish our veterans. It doesn't mean a ticker tape parade, sometimes all it takes is listening to a story.