Tomorrow is Election Day and Sunday is Veterans Day.
A week doesn’t get more red, white and blue than that.
Lately when I think about voting and veterans, I think of two brothers — where they came from, what they’ve experienced and what they believe.
No one has to tell them it’s an honor to vote or they should be respectful when hearing the national anthem.
That lesson was taught to them while growing up on a farm near Ayersville during the Depression and later while serving during World War II.
One of those brothers ended up with severe frostbite in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge. His name is Earl Krumel. I call him “Uncle Earl.” He’s 96 years old.
The other brother is Don Krumel. He sweated it out in the South Pacific, getting ready for the invasion of Japan. He’s now 94 years old and I call him Dad.
Dad hasn’t missed a vote for 72 years and Uncle Earl has missed just one when an illness got the best of him.
We spent a recent afternoon together talking about all of those things.
“The other day I read about a guy walking six miles to vote,” Dad recalled. “He got there and learned he was in the wrong place. He walked five more miles only to find the polls were closed. He was devastated. … It meant so much to him to vote. For the life of me, what happened that people don’t feel that way anymore?” Dad asked.
Uncle Earl chimed in, “And this stuff about kneeling during the national anthem. I understand a person’s right to protest, but my goodness, do they really understand what they’re doing? Couldn’t they find a better way?”
America was deep into World War II when the two brothers received their draft notices in the mail. It didn’t come as a surprise as others they knew were also being called to duty. Uncle Earl’s letter arrived in December 1942 and Dad’s was delivered three months later.
“The invitation was rather polite. It said you had been ‘elected’ and ‘selected’ to join the military,” Uncle Earl quipped. “You were told where to report and were given about two weeks to get there.”
His destination was to go to Camp Perry in Port Clinton, Ohio.
“The first thing they did was exchange your civilian clothes for military clothes. Just before Christmas, Mom received a package in the mail from the government with my civilian clothes inside. It was very upsetting to her.”
He was later stationed in Texas and Mississippi, where he was trained to use weapons that could knock out a German tank. He served under five-star General Omar Bradley in France, Germany and Belgium before being sent stateside due to frostbite.
“Bradley was a gentleman from Missouri and a born leader,” Uncle Earl said. “He really understood his troops. We would do anything for him.”
Uncle Earl recalled seeing the Statue of Liberty on his trip back from Germany to America. “It was the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen,” he said.
Dad, meanwhile, was put on a train for Camp White in Oregon. He was the only person in his group of inductees to be sent west, everyone else went east.
“That was one long train ride. Before that, the furthest I had been from Defiance was Fort Wayne, Toledo, Lima or Kenton,” Dad said. “We were a bunch of wide-eyed farm boys not knowing what was ahead of us.”
It turned out that train ride would be nothing compared to the 35 days he would spend on a ship heading for New Guinea.
“They did a drill where they ordered all hands on deck,” Dad recalled. “I was so sick I couldn’t move. An officer came down and asked me what I would do if a torpedo was coming. I told him I would hope it would hit right here because I was sick enough to die.”
When the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan ending the war, Uncle Earl was in Omaha, Nebraska, recuperating, and Dad was in the Philippines where the Army, Navy and Air Force were making final preparations to invade Japan.
“It would have been a bloody battle had the invasion taken place. I cannot begin to describe how elated everyone was,” Dad said.
Dad and Uncle Earl both returned to Defiance where they both married, raised families and went to work for the Eckert Packing Co. Dad was going to attend the Lima Business College upon his return, but said Eckerts offered to buy him a new 1957 Chevrolet Fleetwood if would he would come to work for them. “They told me they would teach me stuff on the job.”
The two brothers now live at Rosary Assisted Living Center in Sylvania. They’re planning on voting Tuesday, because as of Saturday, had not received their absentee ballot.
“I don’t know what happened but we got to work that out,” Dad said. “We want to vote.”
ROSES AND THORNS: Hmmm … smells like someone is cooking chicken in the rose garden.
Rose: When the first Sunday in November rolled around, people knew where they could find Ed Alt. He would be helping with the chicken dinners at the SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church Fall Festival, something the 89-year-old Ottawa resident has now done for 60 straight years. He’ll leave it at that as he says it’s time to pass on his duties to the “young bucks.”
Rose: To Ralph Bennett, who is retiring after 44 years of coaching track and cross country. Thirty-five of those years were at Lima Senior and nine at Lima Central Catholic. Most of this was done while maintaining a full time job at Ford, as well.
Rose: To Karen Chambers, of Lima. Her idea was featured Sunday in the nationally syndicated comic strip, “Pluggers.”
Thorn: Maybe they don’t need the cash, but someone purchased a lottery ticket from Knap’s Carry Out in Coldwater that is worth $10,000 and has yet to claim their winnings. The sale was made last month when the pot reached $1.6 billion, the Ohio Lottery Commission said.
Thorn: A truck leaving the Lima Refinery drove several miles while leaking a tar-like substance onto the road.
PARTING SHOT: What’s the difference between baseball and politics? In baseball, you’re out if you’re caught stealing.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.