My father, Albert LeeRoy Hendrickson, served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War (1950-1952). He had an older brother who served in Germany at the end of World War II and a younger brother who went to Korea after my father came home, serving in an infantry unit.
Dad always joked that he couldn't shoot well enough to qualify for the infantry, so they put him in the Army Corps of Engineers. His unit worked with a number of South Koreans, and he talked about one in particular, who was "a heckuva carpenter" and "always covered up my mistakes."
Upon his return home, my father joined The American Legion. Memorial Day was his favorite service, and the only time he ever missed in 40-plus years was less than a month before he passed away when he was lying in a hospital bed. Had he been well enough to know he was missing that service, it would have crushed him.
I'm not sure what year Dad was chosen to fire a rifle in the 21-gun salute, but I certainly can't remember a time when he wasn't doing so. His two brothers, who were both of a smaller frame than he was, carried the flags in the color guard until they were past the age of 75 and could no longer handle the flapping of those flags in the Nebraska wind. It's interesting that my father always fired a rifle in the 21-gun salute while constantly joking about his poor gun-handling skills. But he was certainly proud to have done so.
After Dad passed, I mourned the fact that after all those years of firing salutes, his grave would never be fired over since there was another veteran buried after him in the same cemetery. But our small-town Legion post did my father a solid and voted unanimously for a special dispensation to fire over his grave the following Memorial Day. It's something I will never forget because I know my dad was watching and smiling.
God bless The American Legion for giving my dad so many years of joy and camaraderie. He truly loved being a part of the Legion Family. And God bless all of you for your service.