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Listening to veterans’ stories important part of history

November 15, 2009
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

You'll never know instant scare until someone leaves you a voice mail message saying she'll see you tomorrow but doesn't say what day she sent the message.

Is tomorrow actually tomorrow or is it today? Turns out, tomorrow was today, and that was even scarier. After being reminded about my agreement to talk to the Manson Women's Club, I shot over to Manson on Monday to talk to those ladies - and they wanted to hear about Veterans Day. I can talk on almost any subject, but my Veterans Day stories always make me cry. A good speaker doesn't snivel and cry when she's talking, that's for sure, but I gave in and talked about veterans anyway.

Like my uncle, Don Hansch, who stood next to the last person out in that famous picture of Marines holding up the flag on Iwo Jima. He always wanted to tell me the story of the day he won a Purple Heart, but he could never make it past the sobs. He died before the story could be told.

On Monday, when I couldn't wipe my eyes on my shirt sleeve any longer without wringing it out, I changed the subject. Later, when I got back to my desk, there was a paper from my friend, Eddie Simpson, who lives in Boxholm with his wife, Elly. With it was a photo of his father, Robert, in uniform, and information Eddie had written about his family.

"My hero was someone I can't remember," he said. "Only through stories from friends and family. For, you see, my hero was my father."

His dad was 25 when he was drafted, the father of two children, with Eddie on the way. Robert Simpson entered the service, but never had to serve overseas. Because of that, his mother, Ernila, piled the kids in a 1940 Chevy Coupe and drove from Iowa to Fort Bragg, N.C., to be with her husband.

Fact Box

The red kettles are out:

It's The Salvation Army bell ringing time again. People say it could be a tough job because of the downturned economy. I say people still have the helping spirit.

The Messenger staff will be ringing bells Thursday in front of Hy-Vee. I'll be there at 4 p.m. for an hour, and I'm asking for your help. I said we'd probably get a couple $10 bills during my hour and was laughed out of the conversation. When I persisted, thinking I could get a bet then drop the bills in myself, they said I couldn't be the one to drop them.

Don't make me wrong for thinking the best of people. Will someone please stop by and drop a $10 bill in my red kettle? I'll be forever grateful.

Robert Simpson was discharged on Dec. 23, 1945, came home and opened a gas station in Clare.

"Five months later, his life was taken in a truck accident," Simpson wrote. "He was making a delivery. He had blackout spells that started when he was in the Army. No one will ever know just what happened. He never went overseas. He never won any medals or Purple Hearts, but he went when he was called and served his country well.

"Like the people who lost their lives in the war and paid the ultimate price, my dad didn't get to see what his service did for me and others. Families pay the price, too. As I look at his picture in uniform, I think his picture must be like so many others. They say that all the heroes are gone, but there are many - some old, some young - still around. You just have to listen to the stories or read about them.

"Heroes don't always have to die in wars or save someone's life. Sometimes just being there and going through something makes them a hero. Just being my dad makes him my hero."

Now, I could have rewritten what Eddie said, but I never could have written it better. There's passion in memory that no one can emulate. And he's right - sometimes just being there makes a person a hero, which gives me a great idea.

This year when you're trying to figure out a special gift for the children and grandchildren, spend a few days at the kitchen table and write the stories of your youth, even the stories you heard your parents and grandparents tell. That is a perfect gift. And, if you're young, tell your own stories but include a space where you tell your parents and grandparents what they mean in your life.

Everyone has a story. Everyone is a hero to someone.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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