One is relaxed and at ease with public speaking. Mike Pearson, who served as an Army medic on two tours during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, is commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Sandy Coor Post 1433 in Glendale. He is one of the featured speakers at the Memorial Day service scheduled for 9 a.m. May 28 at West Resthaven Park Cemetery on the corner of Northern and 63rd avenues.
Another member of VFW Post 1433 is Laud Baskin, who helps out at the post. He is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army infantry deployed in the Mekong Delta.
Pearson is a third-generation military veteran. He spoke openly about what Memorial Day means to him.
“Because you always remember the people before you, people who came home and those who did not,” Pearson said. “I remember two people specifically: the one who came home and the one who did not.”
The one who did not make it back home was Sandy Alford Coor, a Marine who served in France during World War I. He survived the war, Pearson said, but he died in France in 1919 of meningitis before he was 23 years old.
“Our post is named after him and we do not forget,” Pearson said. “His family donated the property our post sits on today.”
The second person Pearson will always remember is Carl Frank Carden, who was a charter member of VFW Post 1433 in March 1926. Like Coor, Carden served in the Army in France during World War I.
“He survived the war, came home and planted himself in Glendale, and became a charter member of this post,” Pearson said. “He served as a city judge 40 years. He was my grandfather.”
Pearson said, “When it comes down to what describes the service I honor, ‘They served and came home, not necessarily in body, but in spirit,’ and we shall never forget.”
After more than 40 years since he served in Vietnam, Baskin has deep emotional feelings. He had difficulty finding the words to express himself.
He said Memorial Day, “gives me a chance, first of all, to remember the ones that I served with, ones who came home and ones who didn’t. I can share with fellow comrades here and others I meet out on the street, feel my appreciation for their service; share the grief for those who didn’t make it.
“There’s one individual — the first one I think of — I was unable to go out because of an injury. He took my place with a machine gun. He didn’t come back. It’s eaten me through the years. I’d much rather been there so he could come home. I wish I could change that.
“I think back and remember all the guys I served with and able to appreciate all the people who have come back with lifelong injuries. All of them have quirks they have to deal with. If I have a chance to help them through rough times, I feel grateful to help somebody, say something that makes it easier. A lot of veterans have been through a lot worse than I have. Their PTSD is a lot worse than mine.”
It is difficult for Baskin to even express his feelings with those close to him.
“I do have regrets of not being able to talk to my loved ones, not necessarily the experiences I had, no war stories,” Baskin said. “My father pleaded with me before he died. He wanted to know what I went through over there. But I don’t have the vocabulary and ability to tell what’s in my heart.
“My father requested this information and I couldn’t give it to him. My wife requested it and I couldn’t give it to her. I regret not being able to express it.”
The only people he has been able to express his feelings with are those he served with who made it home, Baskin said. Their 40th reunion is the only time he said he really felt comfortable talking about Vietnam. Even then, he said, they talked about what they have been doing since they came home.
“I honor all the people who did come home, those who didn’t come home,” Baskin said.
Pearson said, “I still keep a lot of things quiet. What Laud’s trying to say is he has a great sense of love and respect for the people he served with and he’s lived his life as best he can to honor them.”