speaking at a 2007 event honoring
Vietnam veterans in Slater
Veterans have a well-earned reputation for being generally reluctant to talk in detail about their service, so as area veterans emerged from morning interviews Thursday, Aug. 6, with a team from the Missouri Veteran Stories project, I asked each why he had agreed to participate.
The answers were all variations on a theme: "Charlie asked me to."
They referred, of course, to Charlie Guthrie of Slater, who worked as the local liaison for the state-funded project designed to collect and publish video interviews of Missouri military veterans telling their stories.
But the stories project is only one of a number of projects Guthrie has been involved in since he retired from the Navy in 1996.
Guthrie is far from the only local veterans advocate -- and he will be the first to point that out -- but if you look at who's working behind the scenes on any project in recent years that honors veterans, you're likely to find Guthrie coordinating something, organizing something else and planning for the next thing.
A quick tally of projects he has lead or been involved in -- in addition to Missouri Veteran Stories -- includes:
--Show Me Honor Flight, a program that raises money from donations to take veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials to wars they served in. Guthrie has made two trips as an escort.
--Vietnam veterans recognition in 2007, an effort to acknowledge the poor welcome home many Vietnam vets received and to rectify that.
--The Wall that Heals, a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial that was displayed on the Slater football field in 2006.
--Blue Star Salute, a 2005 project that involved presenting veterans with blue banners in recognition of their service.
--A "Santa" program that twice gathered materials for care packages to troops stationed in Iraq.
He has also participated in or attended deployment and homecoming ceremonies for area servicemen and women.
And he has begun planning a recognition ceremony for World War II and Korean conflict veterans that will be similar to the Vietnam veteran recognition held in 2007.
More information about that program will be published in a separate story next week.
Guthrie was reluctant to be singled out for this story.
"All that I do could and would not have happened without lots and lots of help," he said.
But he doesn't mind reminding the community about the various ways people can honor and support veterans and those currently serving. That's why he works so hard on so many projects.
"After I retired from the Navy and saw a lot of young kids in the National Guard getting called up," he said. "I just wanted to show this new generation of soldiers and sailors that the community cares about them. I didn't want them to feel left out."
He sometimes refers to the infamous poor reception Vietnam veterans received when they arrived home from that conflict. He did so during his interview on the Missouri Veteran Stories Web site.
"It was a sad thing for those who have served their country to come home and be treated like that," he said.
A ceremony he helped organize in 2007 was an attempt to offer a belated, but heartfelt, thank-you to Vietnam veterans.
"We should be proud to be Americans and proud of their service," he said. "It's just an honor and a privilege to work with people who serve our country. You can't do enough."
Guthrie is chaplain in the Slater American Legion post, assistant chaplain for the 40&8 chapter based in Sedalia and volunteers at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Columbia, helping the chaplains there.
Guthrie served in the Navy from 1973 to 1996, including two years of active duty, most of which was aboard the light cruiser USS Little Rock. He also served on the battleship USS Missouri.
During active duty, Guthrie was in a supply unit.
"Our motto was 'service to the fleet,'" he said. "That's still my motto today. 'Service to the veterans.'"
On Patriot Day it seems fitting to honor one of Saline County's most dedicated patriots. Thanks, Charlie.
Contact Eric Crump at
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Troop movements ... 2 Slater soldiers arrive in Chillicothe March 11:
Slater ceremony honors Vietnam vets:
Area students stream to 'Wall That Heals' exhibit in Slater:
Slater plans Blue Star Salute for Saturday: