Dick Geiger tucked a chair in place under the table and straightened a napkin as he finished setting up for dinner. Looking up, the first of over 100 veterans and family members were arriving at the American Legion Hall, Post 1776, in Apple Valley. Dick, who lives at Orchard Path, volunteers every month at the Military Appreciation Dinner, hosted by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon—Apple Valley. Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is spearheaded by the Minnesota National Guard. Its mission is to assist military service members, veterans and their families during and after a deployment overseas with such services as social and emotional support, housework, financial assistance and connections to other resources in the community.
“There was nothing like this when I came home,” recalls the 86-year-old veteran of the Korean Conflict. Dick served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to late 1954, primarily aboard the USS Seminole AKA 104, an attack cargo ship. His ship plied the waters between Korea and Japan, often transporting POWs, or patrolled the Pacific from its base in San Diego. Dick was discharged Oct. 19, 1954, with the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class-electricians mate and was awarded 4 medals: the National Defense Medal, Korean Service Medal with two stars, the United Nations Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
None of his service or commendations seemed to count for much when he returned to civilian life. “We were from the forgotten war; the police action that was never declared a war even though someone was shooting at us,” he said. “When I got out of the Navy, there weren’t organizations for support. You just went back to work.” Dick resolved to apply the personal and professional lessons he learned in the Navy to set his life on the right path and help fellow veterans.
“I came out understanding authority and responsibility,” Dick said. His division leader, Chief Warrant Officer Aubrey Holter, was a positive influence. “He was a great man; committed to his home life and family,” Dick remembers. “He was strict but easy going and could chew me out in a good way,” he said.
Dick carried this example into his own life. After he was discharged and buoyed by lessons learned, Dick married his sweetheart, Carol, and together they raised 2 boys and a girl. “The service made me grow up and take life seriously. I realized that I was responsible for my wife and children,” he said. Now they have 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, all who live near the Twin Cities area.
The Navy also helped Dick forge a career. “Uncle Sam made me an electrician,” he laughed. After the Navy, he sought further training, but to go to school required a job and to get a job required union membership that, in turn, required a job. Caught in a no-win quandary, he turned a corner and was hired in the plumbing, heating and well supply industry where he worked until retirement. “I trained in the school of hard knocks,” he admits, but moved up through the ranks at two companies to become Purchasing Manager.
His military service gave him more than technical skills. “The service taught me to respect and support others, along with the respect for authority,” he said. He aspired not only for his own success but also for the success of his employees. “I treated them fairly and didn’t hover,” he said. “I never asked anyone to do a job that I wouldn’t do or hadn’t done and sometimes fought their battles for them,” he said.
Now Dick carries those same values of respect, responsibility and support to remember and honor those who have since served in the military. His own service was remembered last April when he traveled, cost-free, to Washington D.C for the Honor Flight, which recognizes American veterans for their sacrifices and achievements. He was accompanied by his grandson Ben, a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army Reserves and the only other member of Dick’s family who has served in the military. “When we arrived at DC, I could not believe the number of people from Minnesota there to greet us,” Dick recalled, “shaking our hands, thanking us for our service, it was truly amazing to be remembered like that.”
On this Veteran's Day, we salute Dick and the local volunteers of Beyond a Yellow Ribbon who believe that all active service members and veterans should be remembered. “I want our fellow service personnel and veterans to be treated better than the way we were treated,” he said. Dick continued, “When you put your life on the line for other people, they should say thank you for what they have because of you.”
Learn more about Beyond the Yellow Ribbon-Apple Valley at https://www.facebook.com/beyondtheyellowribbonav/
Learn more about the Honor Flight at www.honorflight.org