Kramer shares story of soldier coming home for daughter’s birth

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Doug Kramer was the keynote speaker at MHS for Veterans Day, Nov. 11. He was introduced by his daughter, senior Karle Kramer. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

MHS Principal Nick Schauf greets the veterans during the breakfast on Nov. 11, Veterans Day at MHS.

MHS NHS member Serena Brokaw hands a letter of thanks to veteran Bob Ahlrich.

Students Madison Butterworth and Bella Mullen performed the National Anthem to kick-off the Veterans Day program.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Monticello High School honored local veterans on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

     The morning started out with a breakfast. About 30 veterans attended the free meal. Nancy Toenjes’ Foods I and II classes prepared and served the meal. MHS National Honor Society (NHS) members also assisted and handed each veteran a letter, thanking them for their service and sacrifice.

     NHS members also escorted veterans into the school from the parking lot and to the auditorium for the program following the breakfast.

     Once the students, staff, and veterans were seated inside the auditorium, students Madison Butterworth and Bella Mullen performed the Nathan Anthem.

     Senior Karle Kramer took to the podium to introduce the guest speaker of the morning, her father Retired Sgt. 1st Class Doug Kramer.

     She said Todd Hospodarsky, MHS Student Success Coordinator, asked whether she wanted to introduce her father.

     “I said yes because how often do you get to say some really awesome things about your parents in front of hundreds of people?” she said proudly.

     She shared that her father served in both the U.S. Army and Army Reserves from 1985-2007.

     “In those 22 years, he was stationed all over the world, including: Hawaii, Korea, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Kuwait, and Iraq.”

     Doug said the reason he wanted to speak to the high school was to share his point of view as a soldier trying to get home for the birth of his daughter, Karle.

     He took time to honor the local Vietnam veterans in the room.

     “The Vietnam veterans who didn’t get welcomed home,” he said. “They came home from where they served and because of bad politics, they had to take their uniforms off when they came home. I’d like to recognize our Vietnam veterans back there. It’s time to give them a welcome home.”

     With that, the auditorium erupted in a round of applause.

     Doug also praised the MHS student body for their conduct during sporting events.

     “I’m always very impressed when I come to athletic events, the way the students here in Monticello present themselves during the National Anthem with the flag raised. I appreciate you honoring that.”

     Doug was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for about two months of training.

     “I was two weeks from heading overseas to Iraq,” he recalled. “My wife, Jolene, and I found out she was two weeks pregnant with Karle.”

     For almost nine months, Doug said he was “boots on the ground” in Iraq in 2003.

     “We ran the checkpoint for vehicles for the personnel. When they come onto our base, we searched them so they weren’t carrying anything onto the base they shouldn’t have,” he said.

     When it was nearing his time to get back home, he found out he would be given a pass to return home earlier than expected.

     “One of my fellow soldiers gave up his chance to come home and gave me the opportunity to come home and see the birth of Karle,” he said fondly. “That’s one thing I also learned when I joined the service, there are others who always have your back. That’s very important.”

     Once he was at Baghdad International Airport, Doug turned his weapon in and boarded a plane. Before the plane took off, the tail was lowered and a casket draped with an American Flag was carried on. Doug said the soldier, a sergeant from Washington state, was killed just hours prior “by a cowardly attack from across the wire.”

     “We got to escort him to Kuwait. It was ironic that I was heading home for a new life to start (Karle) and one had just ended.”

     The plane out of Baghdad took off and flew to Kuwait without any lights what-so-ever.

     “It was a combat take-off,” Doug explained.

     Once in Kuwait, the plane that would bring Doug back to the States was full of soldiers also returning home.

     From there, they headed to Germany and then Baltimore, Md.

     When they landed in Maryland, Doug said a World War II veteran approached him and said, “Come on, son. Let’s go. We’re going to get you home.”

     “That caught me a little bit off guard. I was worried about wasting my day in the airport, waiting to get home,” said Doug.

     He was rushed to the front of the ticket line to exchange his ticket and quickly board a plane bound for Iowa.

     “Within an hour, I was on a flight back to Cedar Rapids. Because that man helped me out, I got home to spend another day with my family.”

     Doug made it home on Jan. 10, 2004. Karle was born on Jan. 14.

     “I hadn’t seen Iowa for nearly nine months,” Doug said of his deployment. “I was hoping I would make it in time before Karle arrived.”

     Unfortunately, Doug only had a couple of weeks at home before he was sent back to Iraq. Another five months later, he was home yet again.

     “Karle was still a little baby girl then,” he said.


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