Community Service Defined
This weekend I have the honor of serving as the host of the Community Interview Series at the Eden Corn Festival. The interviews are part of the Eden Community Showcase started in 2010 by Agri-photographer, David Eckhardt. Eckhardt’s purpose is to educate festival goers who love the rural summer event but know little about the agriculture that literally fuels it.
I began working with David last year in lining up Eden citizens from all walks of town life and interviewing them live on a stage in the community showcase tent. From farmers to government officials, chamber of commerce members, business owners and volunteers, the people who have shared the showcase stage have provided audiences with a wonderful backdrop of the Eden Community that has continued the corn fest tradition for 49 years.
Of all the interviews I have conducted at the community showcase, there was one last night that might just have been one of the most meaningful of my entire journalism career. I enjoyed the honor of talking with Ken Franz, the current President of the Board of Directors of the Eden American Legion Newell Falkner Post 880. Franz served in the US Air Force during Vietnam, teaching fellow fliers survival techniques for those unthinkable combat moments when a plane crashes in enemy territory, in a jungle, in an ocean…in a world filled with dangers and death.
In my experience interviewing veterans, I have found that they can be challenging in that their service memories are so painful and disturbing that they literally cannot voice them. So I planned on a quietly pleasant interview with Mr. Franz, focused on the Legion’s generous shaing of their post grounds that allows the corn fest to be held each year.
What happened however, was that our interview began with this remarkable man talking about his childhood, spent in a series of foster homes, followed by his matter of fact detailing of his post high school air force service that literally saved fellow soldier’s lives behind enemy lines. From that point he explained the importance of the Legion and its members continuing to serve the Eden Community through donations of time, money and materials for those in need. And finally he talked about the recent presentation of The Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall that he and his fellow Legion members sponsored and proudly hosted for 4 days in July.
As I listened to this dedicated man talk about the years of service he had given to his country—-literally his entire adult life—- I asked him who mentored or taught him this valued lesson of service? After a moment of thought and with emotion in his voice, Mr. Franz replied, “No one. It’s just what I do.”
And at that point, I did the only thing I could do….I thanked him.