AUSTIN, Minn. — For some veterans, their service to the military ends after they are discharged. Others, however, continue to serve well past their retirement. Veterans Truman Moen, Charles Rector and Mel Flicek are all in their 80s, yet still perform military rites for military funerals as part of the Austin VFW Color Guard.
As some of the oldest color guards at the VFW, Moen, Rector and Flicek have seen many days pass out in the cemetery.
“Some days are nice, some days are cold, some days are wet, but it’s something you gotta do,” said Moen, a color guard member of 58 years.
Some aspects of the job, however, have become more difficult with age, like marching, they continue on because it’s an important duty.
“I enjoy every bit,” Flicek, color guard of 32 years, said. “But I can’t march like I used to.”
Though it can be difficult at times, none of the veterans say they see an end in sight for their color guard career.
“I’ll continue until I can’t do it anymore,” said Rector, a color guard of 10 years.
Truman Moen, the oldest of the trio at 89, has also spent the longest amount of time on the guard. He served in the Army from 1944 to 1947 and fought on small islands in the South Pacific. Moen even recalls shaking Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s hand.
“He put us into the division he wanted, put us on a boat, and away we went,” Moen said of MacArthur.
Moen was discharged as a private first class, though he said he could’ve been a higher rank if he had taken over for his platoon leader who was killed.
“I didn’t want to do it,” Moen said.
Moen has spent 58 years as a color guard and just like the other two veterans, Moen doesn’t have an exact date set for retirement from the color guard.
“At 89, you take it a day or a year at a time,” he said.
Mel Flicek, 81, has spent the past 32 years serving as a color guard, and currently commands the VFW Color Guard.
He first entered the National Guard as an 18-year-old along with some friends from his hometown.
“I grew up wanting to be in the military,” Flicek said.
Once he was called into active duty, Flicek spent 11 months fighting in the Korean War. He was discharged as a sergeant.
In 1982, a good friend of Flicek’s suggested he join the color guard. Since then, Flicek says he has enjoyed his time as a color guard.
So far this summer, Flicek says he hasn’t been to many funerals.
“It’s been a quiet summer so far,” Flicek said.
Charles Rector, 84, joined the military long before he was legally allowed. As a parentless 15-year-old living in a hotel, Rector had been through a hard time in his life when he turned to the navy. Rector lied and claimed he was an 18-year-old so he could serve, though a recruiter caught him. Luckily, he was allowed to serve anyway.
“The recruiter told me, ‘I’ll let you go in, but if you get in any trouble let me know and I’ll get you out’,” Rector said.
Rector was in the navy from 1945 to 1947 in the South Pacific in Guam where he repaired ships. He was discharged as a seaman first class.
It was after the death of another loved one that Rector got involved with the Austin VFW Color Guard.
“I wanted to get out of the house,” Rector said. “I’ve always admired [the color guard].”