Grateful for Military Families

From the Board: 

Paul Carlson, Secretary to the Board of Directors;
Senior Consultant to the Global Institute for the Study of Intelligent Communities, Dublin Ohio

Paul has served on the RLF Board of Directors as Secretary since 2016 and brings years of experience in information technology project management, entrepreneurship and leadership to the table.  After holding impactful roles at the State of Ohio Treasurer’s Office,  Paul went on to serve as the first IT Project Manager for the City of Columbus and facilitated Columbus becoming recognized as the 2015 Most Intelligent Community in the World by the Intelligent Community Foundation. Paul has participated in panel discussions across the country as an expert on smart cities and transportation. 

Paul earned a BA in Political Science and an MA in History from Youngstown State University, and pursued an Engineering degree at the US Naval Academy.

Sharing stories helps to bring meaning into our lives. They also help to bind generations together and they can often solidify friendships. I remember my father telling me how proud he was, when he was nine years old, watching his brother Carl march down the main street of Ridgway, Pennsylvania in the welcoming home parade at the end of WWI.

Paul R. Carlson served in WWII as a SeaBee in Guam as an enlisted man. He told his brother-in-law Ted Tate that he would volunteer to serve in his place if Ted would agree to stay home with his youngest sister Martha. As the story goes, my dad, who was not married at the time and was living in Akron, Ohio, proceeded to get drunk one night, parked outside what he thought was an Army recruiting station, and ended up joining the Navy by mistake. At the age of thirty-four, he volunteered primarily to make sure that his sister would not become a widow. His nickname was pops! Because of his war experiences, he could never buy any other car but an American one.

During the last twenty years of my father’s life, my three brothers and I would spend Memorial Day with him traveling to his hometown of Ridgway. We would leave my father’s house in Youngstown precisely at 6:30 am to meet our cousins John and Paul Frederick for breakfast at the Pennsy Restaurant in Ridgway at 8:30 am. From there, we’d go to plant flowers at the Oakmont Cemetery on family grave sites. Our next stop was to go to the Lone Pine Lodge hunting camp that was built by Glen Blakesley, my father’s cousin Oscar Nelson, my father, and Bob Plaster (see picture). We would then return to the cemetery for the Memorial Day celebration. It was always a wonderful event with much of the small community attending, paying tribute to our fallen heroes. Serving in the military is a big deal especially when you are from a small town.

Every year, we made the same stops, in the same order. After the grave site celebration we’d stop at the VFW,  where my father’s name is on a plaque that hangs on the wall, being one of the founding members. An outdoor cookout at Cousin John and Andrea’s house, on Vernon Avenue, was always the highlight of the day, talking with Pastor Horowitz, neighbors and relatives. The final stop before our drive home, with me as the designated driver, was to visit cousin Lilian Mackalay and (large) family in Johnsonburg. My father kept Lilian’s letter that she wrote to him when he was serving overseas. We heard my father tell the same stories, year after year and they became more precious every time he repeated them, each year with more enthusiasm.  It seems that military traditions became woven through the fabric of our lives.

My oldest brother Dave served four years in the Air Force and my brother Don, a 1972 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, recently retired after serving twenty-three years in the Navy. I left Annapolis, Class of 1973, after spending two years, primarily because I did not understand the Vietnam War and believed that I could not lead men in a war that I did not believe in. Now, it appears to experts who have studied the war, that we totally misunderstood the Vietnamese culture and caused irreparable harm by our ignorance of history. Yet I have the greatest respect for the military who served out of honor for their country.

Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, the founder of RLF, and I both attended Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio and when she asked me to serve on the Board in 2016, I felt a special obligation to say yes. What I enjoy most about being on the Board is the ability to meet veterans at military gatherings and, together with the other Board members, help those vets who suer from TBI.

As an RLF Board Member, I am grateful for military families and for the sacrifice that is being carried by fewer and fewer of those families, and especially for the veterans who continue to serve our country by actively participating in the political process by serving in oce, irrespective of party aliation. 

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