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There’s always been that guilt

Monday, July 12th, 2010

KENYON, MN – I remember the look on my mother’s face when I broke the news.

“Mom, I signed up to join the Marines,” I blurted out somehow knowing that I’d be met with the stunned look of a terrified mother.

It was August 1967. The Vietnam War raged. Every night, the evening news broadcast the numbers to an increasingly skeptical American public…10 Marines killed in hostile action…five Army Rangers died while on patrol…

And now Marie Otto’s son had signed up to join the Marine Corps.

“When do you leave?” mom asked softly, her face ashen as if the blood had suddenly drained to her feet. It’s as if she already feared the worse for her eldest son, just 18.

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I wish I could shake their hands and thank them

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Volunteers and loved ones placed flags and bouquets of flowers next to the gravestones of United States military veterans during a flag planting ceremony at Desert Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park on Sunday.
Photos By BOB OTTO

CALIMESA, CA – I’ve never met Kenneth S. Adams, Wendell D. Crandall, Jr., Edwin George Cowan, or James F. Kunze, Jr.

But I wish I could. I’d like to shake their hands and thank them.

All four men served in the United States Armed Forces. Adams in the Army, Crandall the Navy, Cowan in the Army Air Forces, and Kunze as a United States Marine.

On Sunday, about 75 volunteers gathered at Desert Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park. They came, young and old, from Yucaipa American Legion Post 426, VFW Post 7347, and a local Boy Scout troop, to plant flags at the grave sites of the veterans buried at Desert Lawn. Every veteran receives a flag.

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Cut those sideburns, Marine!

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

YUCAIPA, CA – My first thought when I saw the older man walking along Yucaipa Boulevard was, he’s an ex-Marine. His haircut gave him away. We called it, The Jarhead flat top, buzzed short on the sides, flat on top.

Every career Marine – “Lifers,” as we short-timers called them – wore a flat top. And that included the First Sergeant of Marine Air Group 31 of Beaufort, South Carolina back in 1968.

I was a lowly 19-year-old PFC (private first class for all you civilians) with one lonely stripe on my shoulders. The First Sergeant had a chest full of medals and his sleeves were covered with stripes.

The man must have been in the Marine Corps for at least 50 years.

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Best of luck Joe

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

YUCAIPA, CA – First, the newspaper headline caught my eye: “Inland poverty on the rise.” Then the plight of the 20-year-old in the story brought tears to my eyes.

Let’s call him, “Joe.”

Able bodied and willing to work, Joe is one of 35.1 million Americans nationwide receiving food stamps. Not that he wants to. But Joe has been homeless for two weeks, sleeping behind a store at night in Moreno Valley. To avoid going hungry, Joe applied for food stamps.

Joe, as with many others in the building trades in Southern California, lost his $15 an hour construction job in March 2008. Since then, he’s been able to subsist by finding enough part time work to avoid government assistance.

But even those types of jobs have dried up.

Joe was quoted as saying:

“It’s kind of embarrassing to ask the government for help when I know I’m very capable of working.”

What piqued my interest about Joe is that he said he wants to join the Marine Corps. Even though he knows he could very well be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, he said that beats going homeless and jobless.

To Joe, I say, “consider signing up.”

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When commanding officers speak, I follow orders

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

By Bob Otto / Freelance Reporter-Photographer

YUCAIPA, CA – The weather has been cloudy and drizzly the past week in Southern California. The kind of weather where one puts off washing the family car until the sun reasserts its warm, dominant self, right?

Wrong. My mother-in-law Angie is leaving Thursday on a vacation to Minnesota and both she and my wife decided the van needed a washing.

No problem. I’ll do it, I offered.

“Can you wash it Sunday?” my wife asked me on Saturday.

“But it’s cloudy and looks like rain. It’s supposed to clear up later in the week, I’ll wash it then before she leaves,” I countered.

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