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In Honor of those who serve - Charlie Lembke

Charlie Lembke

Charlie Lembke actually served in two different wars: Korea and Vietnam.

A career Army man, Lembke was drafted almost as soon as he registered.

"I'm originally from upstate New York and I had to go to Canada to catch a bus to the county seat to register [for the draft]," he said. "By the time I got back, I already had my paper to report for a physical. They were short of people and the county had to meet its quota."

After basic training, Lembke went to Rangers school. He was assigned to the 1st Airborne Ranger Company as a


"The training didn't bother me none," he said. "Of course, when you get into war, it's a different story. But I feel like the excellent training I got made a difference in surviving.

"On top of that, Rangers got an extra portion," he said, with a chuckle. "I was accused of that because I was always


Lembke said most of his memories of the two wars aren't something he even wants to think about, let alone share.

"They weren't too happy," he said. "Sometimes I think I can talk about it, other times I can't ... When you're young, you don't think you will ever die, then you find out that possibility exists. There were times I wondered if I was going to make my 19th birthday."

Lembke ended up in the Army for 25 years total.

"I believe in my country," he said. "Even though very few politicians today have been in the service - if they've never been there, how are they going to understand about sending other people there? And other people's children?"

How does Lembke think people can show respect or gratitude to those who have served in the military?

Lembke tells an extraordinary story of an encounter at Wal-Mart with a Korean girl who worked there.

"I had on my [Korean War vet] cap and she said, 'Thank you for saving my


He'd like to see politicians and others remember what veterans have done as well.

"The only thing I can tell you is that your freedom is not free," he said. "Someone had to pay for it. That's what the veteran did - he paid for people's freedom in America. It goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

"If you don't take care of your vets then sooner or later, no one will want to risk it.

"I paid my dues."