A Veteran’s Day Story…

Three rifle volleys, followed by the mournful sound of Taps. The folded flag was presented to his widow, and then it was all over.

He was laid to rest among his comrades at Fort Snelling, right next to the Minneapolis St. Paul airport. That seems appropriate for this old B-24 crew member from World War II.

It was cold that December day, about 20 degrees below zero. The air was clear, and the bitter wind blew across the prairie, just as it had when he was a young farm kid from northern Minnesota. Like so many others, he simply answered the call to serve.

When the war was over, he used the GI-bill to get a teaching degree. For over thirty years he taught Industrial Arts at inner city schools in St. Paul, MN. The farm kid teaching city kids how to make things. Beautiful things, too. And also molding them into young men.

He married and fathered two daughters. Then cancer struck down his wife, and he was alone. But he was smitten by a young librarian at his school, who he courted the old fashioned way. She was smitten too, and they soon married.

That is when I met Bob. Our wives were sisters, so we became brothers-in-law. There are many good memories with this quiet man who was also old enough to be my father.

Being modest, he never talked about the war. Nor did he ever wave the flag or even participate in veteran functions. No bragging or grandstanding. When the war was over, he simply got on with his life.

The last time I saw him, he was suffering the ravages of Alzheimer’s.
His short term memory was shot, but his long term memory was still intact.

When we stopped by for a quick visit, he was paging through a book on the B-24 Liberator. Being a history fan, I asked him about it.

With some gentle prodding, he was soon telling stories of his wartime experiences. About the bombing missions over the Romanian oil fields. About seeing a strange and very fast German fighter with no propeller. About being a ball turret gunner. And more.

All fascinating stuff. Later, my wife told me her sister confided, with a tear, that he had not talked like that to anyone for over a year. Two weeks later, a heart attack mercifully ended his final battle. I still treasure that last conversation.

So what does this have to do with consulting?
Nothing, really, but somehow  it just seemed right share this story on Veterans Day. Rest in Peace, SGT Melbye.

And thanks (from a non-vet) to ALL who have served!

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