It has been well over half a century since Pawhuska’s Milton Labadie served this country in what was then West Germany, and he was touched by a local child’s recent expression of gratitude.
Labadie explained he had not known the identity of an Indian Camp Elementary School second-grader who prepared a Veterans Day card for him, and he wanted to thank the student.
“He did such a good job of coloring,” Labadie said, commenting on the hand-prepared card. “What struck me was for a teacher that is thoughtful and teaching her kids patriotism.”
Labadie, who will turn 90 in October, was a young lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1954-56, following participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while in school at Oklahoma A&M University. He recalls that he was pleased when he received orders for Germany, because that meant his wife could join him overseas.
Labadie went on to become a banker and Osage County business and civic leader. He was honored in the spring of 2019 by the Osage County Historical Society as one of the Heroes and Legends of Osage County.
His correspondent, as it turns out, was 8-year-old Mason Fuhrman of Pawhuska, whose mother, Rebecca Kirk, told the Journal-Capital it was not unusual for Mason to want to make a card for someone.
“He’s very compassionate,” Kirk said. “He often expresses his care and love for others through that kind of thing.”
She added that Mason frequently makes cards for her.
As it turns out, Mason and his brother Max Fuhrman, who is in fifth grade, are the grandsons of a World War II veteran — the late Walter “Tommy” Osborne Jr. — and their mother has shared with them about their grandfather’s service.
“We’ve talked about my dad,” Kirk said, explaining that she has shown photos and other items from the World War II period to her sons. Her elder son, Max, has begun to take an interest in reading about World War II, she said.
“Veterans are near and dear to my heart,” Kirk said, noting that Mason knew about veterans even before the Veterans Day classroom exercise that led him to create a card for Milton Labadie.
“He knows that veterans protect our country,” she said.
Mason’s teacher, Stephanie Jensen, said she prepared a lesson for her 21 students that included talking about veterans, watching a video about Veterans Day, listening to her read a book to them on the subject, and brainstorming about possible ideas for messages to veterans.
Jensen talked to her students about the parts of a letter, to encourage them to communicate effectively.
“I was just so proud of them for wanting to do that, and they did a really good job,” Jensen said, reflecting on how well her class carried out the assignment. She said she has known Labadie all her life, and he has been a close friend of her family.
Labadie, in turn, seemed pleased to know that Jensen was the teacher whose student sent him a card, and pleased to learn the identity of his correspondent.
“It just makes me feel good that these kids are being taught patriotism and love of country,” he said.