Veterans Day Thoughts and Memories from the King Family

Laura Black, Director of Marketing, King Operating Corporation:

“Veterans Day carries deep meaning in my family. Growing up, I’d visit my grandparents’ place and see my grandfather’s Army Air Corps medals, the black and white pictures of him with his fellow crewmembers and hearing his stories of the family he gained as a Sergeant in the Army Air Corps in World War II. My dad, a Vietnam War vet, chose service over a potential baseball career. And my husband joined the Navy after high school.

This Veterans Day hits differently for me. My dad passed away in February, making me reflect on the moments he proudly wore his “I’m a Veteran” hat. Seeing others with similar hats I expect will catch me off guard. This day serves as a reminder of the profound sacrifices made by these courageous individuals, who not only defended our nation but also instilled a lasting inspiration in my daily life. Witnessing veterans proudly wearing their hats, I find a moment of connection, a thread linking past and present, and a tribute to the enduring spirit of those who have given so much for our freedom.

Veterans Day is a tapestry of gratitude, remembrance, and a heartfelt salute to the brave souls who continue to shape this country’s journey.”

Mackenzie Kastl, SVP, Partner Relations, King Operating Corporation

“In honor of Veteran’s Day, I want to take a moment to recognize all of those who put their service to this great country over themselves. It takes a special person to commit to standing in the fray to defend others, and I am blessed to have family who serves.

I have a grandfather who served in the United States Navy in WWII, leaving two small children at home to defend the country he adored. He inspired both of my brothers to choose a path of service in their decision to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. My older brother, Lt. Col. Cory Kastl currently serves in the 101st Airborne Division. He has served numerous tours of duty and is a selfless leader of others in his long military career. He earned a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan in 2010, which he refers to grudgingly as his “enemy marksmanship badge,” and has numerous other service accolades. My younger brother, First Lt. (Ret.) Garrett Kastl served for 9 years and retired to pursue a civilian career. I am incredibly proud of both of them, and for the sense of patriotism and pride their service has instilled in our family. America was built on principles of freedom and independence, and our Veterans have made that great dream a reality with their relentless and selfless dedication. I am honored to reflect this Veteran’s Day on my own family, and on the countless others who have paved the way for us all. God bless America!”  

Aaron Ledyard, Landman, King Operating Corporation

“Every Veteran’s Day I pause to reflect and honor the lives of those who have served to protect our great county. I never served and often wish that I had. In my mind, these men and women are the true heroes.

I have been told that we die twice in this world, once when our physical being has been laid to rest, and another time when our name stops being spoken. As a result, I want to take the time to mention the names of some veterans that were a part of my life who are no longer with us. First, my grandfather, Lieutenant Carlton McKinney, served as a naval officer in the South Pacific during World War II. He fought in the Battles of Saipan, Tinian, Peleliu, and Luzon. My other grandfather, 2nd Lieutenant Gilbert Charles “Gibby” Ledyard, flew for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific and the Atlantic during that same war. He landed the first American plane on Japan soil after the surrender by the Japanese.

Some close friends of mine have also served our country during wartimes, and I would like to mention their names as well. Sergeant Barry Lynn Pedan fought in the Gulf War during the 1990’s. He passed away in 2000 after fighting another battle, a battle with cancer. He didn’t win that battle, but he will always be a hero to me. Earlier this year, I lost another friend, Dr. Arnold J. Morris, Jr., who I had fought in Vietnam, but he never talked about it. After he passed, I read the following in his obituary: A.J. served six years in Vietnam earning the rank of Captain. During his service, he received the National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Two Overseas Bars, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Army Commander Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal. I will never be able to live up to any of these men, but I am honored to have been a part of their lives and very grateful for them risking their lives to protect our freedoms.”

Melanie Johnson, Investor Relations, King Operating Corporation
(Melanie’s father-in-law fought in three wars. Here’s the family’s memories of their dad)

“Daddy completed 33 missions during World War II, notably participating in the first daylight bombing raid on Berlin—a daring move since the British typically flew at night due to heavy losses. On D-Day, he undertook two missions. His wartime journey was marked by adversity, sustaining injuries on his sixth mission when flak struck their plane, earning him a Purple Heart. Tragically, his entire crew perished during his stay in a British hospital.

Despite the ordeal, he returned to combat duty after recovery and completed the remaining missions. There’s a poignant photo capturing his resolve, taken to emphasize the importance of wearing a flak jacket. In that image, he sported a mustache, a subtle touch to appear more French in case they were shot down over France.

Beyond World War II, he served in Korea and Vietnam, where he held the position of munitions commander at Tan Son Nhut for a year. Despite rarely discussing Vietnam, he characterized it as a “nickel and dime political war” that could have ended by strategically bombing mountain passes to prevent Russian arming of the Vietcong. Witnessing the first democratic vote amid the risk of gunfire left a lasting impression on him. He urged the importance of valuing and making informed choices during elections.

He was then stationed in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and later transitioned to the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) during an assignment in Ohio. Specializing in atomic weapons, he commanded Stony Brook (AFLC) on Westover (SAC) during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tense period when bombers stationed there were armed.

Despite frequent temporary duty assignments, when he was home, he actively engaged with us. Upon retirement, roles reversed with Mom taking up employment, and he dedicated himself to family activities. His and Mom’s experiences encapsulate the essence of the greatest generation, navigating three wars in 28 years.”

If you would like to contribute your Veterans Day story, please feel free to leave it in the comments. Watch our video slideshow of some of those special veterans we talk about in these stories here.

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