Message From Ken
My inspiration for all I do for Veterans, I owe to my father. He was a Marine who experienced combat during the Korean War. He had all the symptoms PTSD but back then that was not known. You came home got married, raised a family, worked hard, and never talked about it.. Growing up I did not have a good relationship with my Dad as I rebelled. I wish it were different. But, I owe my strong work ethic to my father who taught me the value of hard work. I was required to do not only household and yard work chores but he made me cut other peoples lawns and get a paper route. Every summer I was required to pick strawberries, raspberries, and radishes. If I wanted money, I had to work for it. My high school summer years were spent working at a summer camp. Every summer while attending Portland State University I worked a different job. They ranged from very physical to hot, dangerous, hard work. I worked at Riemann's Steel Drum Factory, Blount Chainsaws, Chinn's Import/Export and ESCO Steel Foundry.
My sophomore year I walked on and tried out for PSU's football team and earned a scholarship. I was a three year starter at Offensive Tackle/Guard for Coach Mouse Davis and blocked for QB June Jones who played in the NFL. Spring term my senior year, I was offered a job driving a beer truck for Columbia Distributing delivering Kegs of Budweiser to Taverns in downtown Portland. They were mostly all basement deliveries and before they hired me this downtown route was a two man job. I did that job for three years. It was extremely physically demanding. While working. I attended night school and finally got my degree.
I was hired as a weight training teacher and coach at Milwaukie High School . I was a Varsity football, wrestling, and track coach for 20 years. I was the Head Football Coach for 8 years. My expectations were high as I pushed my students and athletes very hard and demanded all to develop a strong work ethic. They did and I'm proud of all of them.
My life changed drastically when my father (Marines, Korean War, Chosin Reservoir) committed suicide. It devastated my mother and she passed away three years later at 54 years old. It started to upset me that Veteran's Day meant nothing to students and teachers. It was just an day off from school and for me a paid day off. I'm not a Veteran and I got a paid day off! I did a survey in all my classes.
1st question was: "Who are your heroes" ? #1 "answer was pro athletes and rock stars".
2nd question was: " What is a Veteran" ? The #1 answer was "They take care of dogs and cats".
3rd question was: What is Veteran's Day ? The #1 answer was "A day to sleep in".
This inspired me to bring Veterans to school to talk to the students. The students would learn that the cost of freedom is high. I in-serviced the students a week before and asked them all to wear their best clothes as a sign of respect (boys wear a tie, girls wear a dress). Wherever I started a Living History Day idea , most of the teachers were very skeptical and pessimistic. "You can't get today's teenagers to be respectful to senior citizens". "You won't be able to get teenagers to dress up nice".
Well, all my life whenever someone said you'll never be able to do that, I was inspired to work even harder to prove them wrong. Every school I've brought Veterans to the students response has always been the same. Awesome! Every student body we've been to now understands what a Veteran is , what Veteran's Day is, and their Heroes are Veterans !
In 2002 a group of Vietnam Veterans helped me form a non-profit and teenagers named it "REMEMBERING AMERICA'S HEROES – VETERANS". Several times it has been a struggle to keep it going but I refused to quit. When we lost our revenue stream and the the economy crashed in 2008, several WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans met with me and stated that I had gone above and beyond for Veterans. It was not worth the stress it was causing me and I had their blessings to shut it down.
As you already know, Remembering America's Heroes is still alive and I'm proud to say that every time we do a Living History Day more Veterans are honored and thanked and more high school students learn about the high cost of freedom.