The Quiet Server

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Always helping someone, always fixing something, that’s my uncle Gary. He’s living a happy life in his fifties with his wife Gretchen. He has black hair, and dresses in jeans and a dress shirt. He always has a calculator and pen is his pocket protector. He has two kids Eric and Heather, who are both in their twenties. His kids have kids, so that makes him a grandpa. He lives about three blocks away from my grandma and he visits her all the time. She needs the extra help because my grandpa passed away about two years ago. Almost every time I call her, him and his wife Gretchen are there helping her out. Gretchen says, “He loves her like she’s his own mother.” He lives in a small house right by a high school. He has a big field in his back yard, so whenever we go out, we play baseball out in the field. He works at a high school as a janitor, so he has keys to every room in the school. He takes my brothers and me to the high school gym to shoot around. I admire him because he went to the Vietnam War, and is still here today to help others with their problems.

When Gary was young he lived in a family of twelve. He had ten brothers and sisters. He grew up in Lasalle, Illinois in a poor part of town. Gary said, “Close family life is one thing that influences me the most.” He was a bright kid with a lot going for him. He had an excellent education, and was amazing at baseball. Gary was so outstanding that he could have played minor league ball. The opportunity was lost when he was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1968. Gary got a phone call telling him to report to a certain location at a certain time. He had to go, giving up all his dreams of becoming a minor league baseball player, and continuing his education. He even told me, “My greatest failure was not continuing on with my education, and baseball.”

He was twenty years old when he was drafted into the war. He was put into the 544 transportation battalion. He was a regular soldier sitting in a bunker all day and night getting little amounts of rest. He told me that “Everyday was hard. It felt like you were waiting for nothing, and just kept getting bad news.” Days in the war were restless. Sometimes he would have to sit in his bunker all night. He may get an hour of sleep, and in the morning his squad would be shot at with all kind of artillery.

Gary experienced a lot of hard times while he was at war. He had a lot of friends during the war, but lost two close friends John Hall from Kentucky, and Marvin Luibere from Louisiana. He said “The hardest part of the war had to be that we weren’t trying to win the war. We weren’t using all of our gun fire, and because of it we were killing hundreds of innocent people everyday.” He really wasn’t happy with that because even though the Vietnamese weren’t our people, he still didn’t like the fact that they were killing them when they never did anything wrong.

Gary said, “My greatest achievement in my life was getting out of the service, going home, and having a wife and kids.” His daughter Heather said, “He was always a great role model.” His son Eric said, “He would always be there for me.” He left the war on April 14th, 1971 on his birthday. He came home, and got married to Gretchen. He decided to do something he loved which is fixing things, so he became a janitor at a high school that was right next to his house. “The service really changed my life.” He said. He experienced a lot at war, and it completely changed the way that he looked at everything around him. He knew what it was like to be on the verge of dying, so he started living his life like everyday was his last. “ He makes the best out of everyday of his life” said his wife Gretchen.

I look forward to when we visit with our family in Illinois. If I ever have a problem with sports, Gary is always the one who I can ask. He always has the right answer. One time I went through a phase where I just could not hit the ball in baseball. When Gary came out to visit, and my dad and I told him about my problem, we were out in the back yard for about two hours working on my swing. Because of his lesson, the next game I went two for three with a triple. Another time I couldn’t hit a shot in basketball, and he took me up to the high school he works at, and got us into the gym. We were there shooting and working on my form for about three hours.
Whenever he is teaching me how to do something, he always says, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” He says that because he knows that it is true. Gary had many challenges in his life including getting through the war and raising a family. Gary is a great role model, and I hope that I can measure up to him when I am older.





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