HANNIBAL – A Hannibal man and his grandson joined together in a patriotic project to repaint two "4.2" mortars at the entrance of American Legion Post #55 (Emmette J. Shields) in honor of everyone who served in the Armed Forces — including their fathers.
Nate Frazee wore his late father's bib overalls; his 12-year-old grandson, Luke Woerdehoff, wore his father's fatigues as they both carefully applied paint to the mortars leading up to the post's entrance. Frazee's late father, Nathan, and Luke's father, John, each served in the U.S. Armed Forces. During the Vietnam War, Frazee received a deferment for teaching, which he said made him feel guilty. He decided to take the opportunity with Luke to help restore the mortars to honor all those who served their country, including two of Frazee's close friends who were killed in Vietnam.
For Frazee, the American Legion holds a special place in his heart. His father served during World War II and was a member of the American Legion in Wayland.
"Every Saturday night, my family, Mom, Dad, my brother and I went to Wayland, Missouri to the American Legion to eat supper and socialize," he said. "American Legion is a fantastic thing. Everybody in here has sacrificed a lot to keep us safe."
The duo received an outpouring of support from the community during their mission to restore the mortars: Tri-State Industrial Painting sandblasted the metal surfaces, Walmart donated music CDs to play as they painted and Sherwin-Williams donated the paints and supplies. When Frazee left a note at the American Legion Post #55 that he would like to paint the mortars, he made sure to let American members know that he and Luke wanted to do the work free of charge. They had a surprise gift for Luke on Friday — a $50 gift card for Walmart.
As they took a break for cheeseburgers and fries, Frazee reflected on the chance to say thank you to veterans and spend more time with his grandson.
"There's another reason I come here," he said. "These are all heroes. They served our country."
Luke finished his meal and walked out the door into the afternoon heat. When Frazee returned outside, his grandson was lying on his stomach, painstakingly applying paint beneath the mortar's base. For grandson and grandfather alike, the project strengthened their bond and provided a unique chance to say thank you.
"I think what means most to me is that with my dad serving in the military, it's a way to show that I'm proud of what he did and I'd like to help in the military," he said. "What this also means to my grandpa is that it's something for me and him to do together. It's very good for both of us to show that we care about all branches of the military."
Frazee said they planned to complete the project by Saturday, and he turned to Luke to commend him for his hard work.
"Your dad will be so proud of what you did," he said.