by Jim Boyle
Carole Boelter couldn’t tell who had bigger smiles when veterans lined up to receive handshakes and high fives from the students in attendance at a program for veterans this past Monday at Lincoln Elementary School in Elk River.
Was it the children who said thanks? Or was it the veterans who were overwhelmed by the kindhearted gestures? Perhaps, it was the longtime kindergarten teacher herself who had the biggest smile.
She gave the keynote address for this year’s program at Lincoln, which gave her a chance to share with students, staff and honored guests what Veterans Day means to her.
“When you’re raised in the family of a veteran, it makes you more aware that its not just a day,” she told the Star News. “It’s a bigger deal than that.”
Boelter explained how her dad, Earl Moos, one of 16 brothers and sisters to grow up on a family farm just outside of Nowthen, went off to war shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Earl was one of five boys in the Moos family who served their country during the war. The only contact he and his family had was an occasional letter. Upon Earl’s return to the United States, he went about getting married and having a family.
The couple decided to settle in Elk River, where Earl became an active member of the American Legion post here and participated in the group’s color guard. He even took a turn at commander of the Elk River American Legion at one point. But his life was cut short in a construction accident when Boelter was only 21 years old.
So the letters he wrote home to family during the war now hold special meaning for Boelter and others in her family.
Earl Moos was a sergeant and a foot soldier in the war. He served in Palestine and other areas of the Middle East, in Tripoli and in Italy.
Before his letters would make it back to Minnesota, a censor would read them and redact any information the censor thought might be too sensitive.
“There were many months when my grandmother did not know where her five sons were or even if they were alive,” Boelter said.
The letters would restore her hope. Today, they give Boelter insight into her father’s life as a young man.
“I treasure this look into what my dad was experiencing during this time in his life,” Boelter explained. “He never shared too much about the war with us, so these are the only real pieces to this past that I have.”
Boelter was amazed at how connected he was to his brothers. She also learned how much he missed home while he was away.
He once commented in a letter: “There is beautiful countryside in Italy, but it still isn’t as beautiful as it is back home.”
All five Moos boys ultimately returned home from the war. Not all families were so lucky, of course, Boelter pointed out in her talk.
“It was very important to my dad that we honor the men and women of our country who served in the armed forces,” Boelter stated. “He made it clear to us we have rights in our country that many people in the world do not have.”
With his daughter’s help, he made that point clear again. Maybe it was he who was smiling the most.