Elk River, MN was the foggy April destination for Serve #26. My subject Larry S. and I met at the Olde Main Eatery over a tasty egg breakfast and a hot cup of coffee served in an old fashioned ceramic mug. This story however, actually began a week prior when I met Larry in an auto repair shop in Elk River. Larry caught my attention when he walked in wearing a Vietnam Veteran baseball cap, a local VFW jacket, along with his warm smile.
I could see this man with a bit of silver hair and a few more years lived on this earth than myself, had served our country and had a story. His Serve story began as a patriotic call to duty in the fall of 1967 after enlisting when he was 18 and lasted until the fall of 1973. Larry served three tours of duty in Vietnam in roles that ranged from truck driver, to mechanic, to infantry during those tours. In these various roles he was a boots-on-the-ground guy doing whatever he was asked to do while in the service. Larry shared that returning from his third and final tour was the most difficult due to the protesters spitting, hurling insults, names, and actual stones at him and his “Band of Brothers” as they walked across the tarmac. These young men who went to battle a bit wet behind the ears came back seasoned warriors and deserved much more than insults and injuries when they were back stateside. I guess that is a big reason why I was drawn to photograph Larry and listen to his story about his service in Vietnam. I feel that every person who has served our country deserves respect. Just say thank you, when you see a hat, a jacket, or even a military tattoo; there are lives that were given for what you and I take for granted.
As my time with Larry was ending I asked the question; “How would you encourage the next generation?” He said ; “Join the military. We still need to have a strong military.”
In closing I want to encourage each of you to have the courage to walk up to a veteran if you see one on the street, or even start up a conversation with a relative and hear their story. Your life will be made better for it. As your moment with a veteran comes to a close, shake his or her hand, say thank you and walk away knowing your life was made just a little richer.