By Linda Andersen
At age 84 one is deserving of retirement. Bob Cameron, Veterans Service officer for Kittson County for the past 17 years, will conclude his service in June. “I’ve had a good ride,” he says, adding that he’s liked “meeting people and helping them where I could.”
Born in Argyle on New Year’s Eve 1933, he was raised in St. Vincent and graduated from Pembina High School in 1951.
He is a veteran, having served two years in active duty and six years in active reserve duty. His military service included working with underground guided missiles on the East Coast. He served during the Cold War when the world situation was “not unlike now” with “so many threats.”
He says he was one of about “a dozen” men who were chosen to train for a time with the Norfolk Fire Department so as to be prepared if fire broke out on base.
“Two months and three days” of his active duty were spent recuperating from a fall he took on base which resulted in a brain injury and broken bones.
Back home in 1955, he attended Aaker’s Business College in Fargo for two years, majoring in business administration. He then worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad and Merchants National Bank of Fargo.
He doesn’t forget dates and time periods. He says he began working for Crane Johnson Lumber of Fargo on March 18, 1957 and continued employment with them for “42 years and three months.” He began as a corporate accountant, but after seven years, he was “tired of working at a desk.” He wanted to manage his own lumber yard and spent time at Pelican Rapids and Cooperstown, ND, for training. He secured the position of manager of the Crane Johnson lumberyard in Hallock in 1968. “I had this yard for 30 years,” he states, mentioning that he retired from that career in 1998.
He began his work as veterans service officer in May of 2001. In his office at the courthouse in Hallock, he moves easily to reach to a high shelf to retrieve military award displays. One holds awards of his uncle Kenneth Cameron. Bob remembers being 11 years old in 1944 and learning that his uncle was missing in action, following the Battle of the Bulge. Later, the Red Cross notified the family that Kenneth was a prisoner of war. Kenneth escaped from the POW camp, was able to join with American forces, and eventually came home – weighing only 85 pounds.
Another display is that of his son Bob, who passed away in 2006. Bob was a part of the United States Army and served as a paratrooper and Para commando. A significant episode in his army life included a secret mission in which his squad parachuted into the area in which hostages were released in Beirut in the 1980’s.
Bob says just over 300 veterans now reside in Kittson County and “160 are under my wing.” The benefits Bob can arrange for veterans are many, but include providing transportation for medical appointments, helping with veterans pensions and widow/widower pensions, assistance in obtaining burial and death benefits, and assistance in obtaining vocational rehabilitation, education assistance, and job training.
Bob explains that if a health problem is service connected, veterans can obtain free medications for that health issue. Even if a health issue is not service connected, the veteran can obtain some help with medication costs.
“We hope all veterans come in because they all deserve benefits they have earned,” says Bob.
He adds that limitations in what he can do exist; he can’t manage people’s affairs or give legal advice. He can, however, refer people to sources of help.
He says mental health issues are the biggest problem among veterans. “We’re losing 20 to 40 veterans per day by suicide,” Bob states. He offers a phone number for veterans who are in “an emotional crisis” – 1-800-273-TALK.
Bob has enjoyed presenting award displays to veterans or their survivors at Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day observations. “You feel so humbled. Some of these guys went through so much,” he comments.
He calls the Kittson County Veterans Memorial at Lake Bronson his “pride and joy.” He was the chairman of the committee that set it up. He says they were able to place eight benches and “well over” 800 pavers at the memorial even though they’d had a goal of only four benches and 400 pavers.
Through June 15, 2018, Cameron will be offering services to veterans. “Our doors are always open. We welcome even a visit,” he says.
What will Bob do in retirement? “We’re going to take a day at a time and things will come together,” he replies. For now, the office is open every Monday and other days by appointment.
Family should occupy at least a part of his retirement time. He and his wife, Dorothy, have two living sons (David in Fargo and Kenneth in Iowa), a daughter, (Julie Lindegard of Hallock), 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.