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I went to my first community meeting, to have coffee and conversation with volunteers, and was drawn to the energy of a man with great stories about my new city.

Poetry as public art, waterfront park, Portland. OR. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

“Ever meet a vet from the Korean War?” he asked, with a sweet smile.

Not in the U.S. — Canadian uncles served, I replied.

“People are always telling me I’m the first Korean War vet they’ve actually met,” he said, sounding a little surprised.

He was. I’ve met American vets from many wars, from WWII to the Persian Gulf War to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I remarked that he didn’t look old enough to have served in Korea.

I wasn’t trying to flatter. He truly didn’t look old enough, and he had an energy about him that made strangers gravitate to his side.

The man explained he had been so keen to join the military in his youth, he tried to sign up, under age.

The army wouldn’t take him.

As soon as he reached the right age, the Marines accepted him, trained him, toughened him.

He stayed in the military, and volunteered in all kinds of ways for his community. For decades. He kept volunteering after retirement from the military, grateful to this country for many opportunities.

We chatted about community needs, families, cultures, home countries (we’re both immigrants) and the strength of America, in a wounded economy.

How many of us do anything for our community or — for all the election campaign blather — for our country?

This 84-year-old has done more than anyone asked, and he wasn’t seeking a word of gratitude.

Thank you: Two very small words for such a long-lasting contribution to America.

I’m grateful to have met my first Korean War vet in this country, a man who gave and still gives.

TOMORROW: The question two vets asked that I couldn’t answer

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