Navy veteran takes D.C. trip for his Marine brother

by Bryan Painter Published: October 16, 2011

“I'm going for me, but I'm especially going for Carl.”

At that point, I had to look through my own tears to see those in Vernon Keepers' eyes.

Vernon's 84-year-old voice faded.

His past and mine had just collided around the memories of one deceased man, Carl W. Keepers.

To him, Carl was an older brother.

To me, a second-grader at the time, he was the man who didn't talk just right, who wore a long coat even in the heat of August, but was a very kind and giving soul.

Carl would bring coins to my dad's corner booth at the swap meet under the stadium at Garfield County Fairgrounds. This whiskered friend always had a coin for me. He asked nothing in return just smiled and walked on, leaving me with a grin, and a wheat penny that possibly dated back to about the year his life changed forever.

Tuesday night, I was floating from table to table at Rose State College visiting with World War II veterans scheduled to leave the next morning for the fifth of Oklahoma's Honor Flights. This one was taking 103 men to their see their memorial in Washington.

While interviewing one of these individuals, I noticed the eyes of the veteran across the round table fixed on mine. Long story, a little shorter, I made my way around and started to introduce myself, but he interrupted and said, “I knew your dad and your uncle.”

I went ahead and said, “I'm Bryan Painter, with The Oklahoman,” in case he was confused.

He continued, “I knew your uncle, Bonnie, and your dad, Clarence.”

There was no name tag on me. This man lives in Boise City in the far western Panhandle. He had no idea where I worked, or that my father died Sept. 3, 1999.

Vernon didn't know who I was, but I guess through resemblance, he knew whose I was. He had grown up in Enid, around the corner from my dad and uncle. This left me stunned.

Recovering a little, and not yet having asked his name, the stick-on tag read “Vernon Keepers.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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