"Everybody line up," yelled the sergeant. "We've got some mail here to deliver to some of you." He went down the row and handed a large envelope to several of the privates. When he got to Gordon, he told him it was probably his absentee ballot papers. "Do you know who you are going to vote for? It better not be that son-of-a-bitch FDR! That's all I got to say."
Gordon had grown up in a small town in western Illinois. After high school graduation, he worked for a while at a job. Then, he realized he would probably get called into the Army. So, he decided to enlist. Maybe he would have some better options if he enlisted. He wasn't particularly good at athletics or technical stuff. He was kind of clumsy. But, he knew how to write. Perhaps he could use his skill there.
It was 1944 when the sergeant handed him his papers so he could complete his absentee ballot. He was a young man and voting for the first time. But one thing was certain in Gordon's mind, he did intend to vote for FDR regardless of what he was told.
Come below the fold for more about Gordon and his story.
This story now jumps to 2012. Last Monday, I was part of a campaign training session for our local volunteers and those who are interested in volunteering. The local organizers presented this training to help recruit and bolster our local teams. We are in the building phase trying to get more people on board for the coming months. We had ten teams represented. My team 7 had eight new faces there. Several regulars were out of town. Gordon and his wife Faye were present. I was thrilled to see them.
The ten teams were seated around the large room. It was hot and noisy. We were meeting in a breakout session to try to plan for today's canvass in one of our neighborhoods. I could barely hear and be heard. Poor Gordon and Faye couldn't make out much of anything. After the workshop, they stayed for a few minutes so we could talk in the quieter setting. It was then I found out he and Faye were long time Democrats. They asked for more information about the canvass event and how they could help. I explained where we were going to meet to stage the canvass and what time. They said they would definitely be there.
Today was canvass day. Since I am the team leader, I took all of our canvassing materials to the staging location about thirty minutes early and got set up. About fifteen minutes later, in walked Gordon and Faye. We were pretty busy helping the volunteers with walk packs and directions. Some had done this before. Some needed a brief training and some of their questions answered. I asked Gordon and Faye to have a seat and watch. They would be able to help us do this same thing in the future canvasses.
Once the teams were on their way, I put some of the items on the table in order and sat down to talk with them. I thanked them for coming and volunteering their time. I said their support was a valuable thing. It was especially important for the younger volunteers to see them as part of the whole team.
I then asked each where they had grown up. Faye was from a small town on the Mississippi north of Dubuque, IA. She was born in 1926. Gordon was raised in the small town in Illinois after his birth in 1923. Then, he said "Today is my birthday." I congratulated him and asked if they were doing anything special later today. He said they weren't. This event was it for them. I was honored.
A few minutes later, Faye asked for more details about the walk packs the canvassers were carrying. I explained each item and in particular the Vote By Mail request form. Each canvasser is trying to bring back as many of those completed forms as possible. The forms will be given to our county auditor. The absentee ballots will be mailed out on September 27. The VBM form is like gold to us in the campaign. It is our way of securing early votes for Obama and the other Democrats on the ticket.
"We want to fill our forms out now. We'd like to vote by mail," they said. I told them it would be the best thing I could imagine. While they quietly and carefully filled in the spaces, I took this picture. For Gordon, it was nearly 68 years ago that he first voted.
Our team hoped to collect twenty five VBM request forms today. We ended up with twenty. Not bad. The two most valuable ones are in that picture.
Volunteering is time consuming. It can be frustrating. You get unanswered phone calls, crabby calls, and doors slammed at you. Now and then, you get something like this that keeps you going. You see why it is important to do it. It inspires you to do what you can to help elect those who you trust will bring the best changes to our country.
Do you have some interesting stories of your own to tell about your volunteer efforts? Please share them below. And, if you are undecided about volunteering with your local office, give them a call. You can help in many different ways. I urge you to offer your help.