When Carl J. Olson went to France to help defeat the German kaiser's armies, he began a tradition of military service carried on by his descendants in Fort Dodge today.
Seven members of the Olson family have served in the armed forces and an eighth is set to enter the Marine Corps next year.
''It's a big source of pride for me,'' said Susan M. Olson, of Fort Dodge, who is an Army veteran.
Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Earl Olson, of Fort Dodge, and his niece, Susan M. Olson, also of Fort Dodge, point out names of relatives on a commemorative bench at Veterans Memorial Park north of Fort Dodge. Eight members of their family have served in the military and another member will go into the Marine Corps next year.
The Olson legacy of military service is literally etched in stone upon a bench at Veterans Memorial Park north of Fort Dodge. The bench bears the names of the seven family members who were in the military, plus their branch of service, rank and the years that they served.
Carl J. Olson was born in Norway and immigrated to the United States in 1908 at age 17, according to information provided by Susan M. Olson, his granddaughter. He settled in Rodman. He entered the Army on July 25, 1918, at age 26. He served in an infantry unit and one that specialized in escorting prisoners of war.
Upon returning to the United States in 1919, he became a naturalized citizen.
Three of his children - Mathew, Earl and Jeanette - served in the military.
The late Mathew C. Olson, a Fort Dodge native, first enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard at age 16. He was called to active duty once during a strike at a meat packing plant in Waterloo.
In 1948, he enlisted in the Navy. Earl L. Olson said his brother enlisted in the Navy in hopes of seeing the world. According to his brother, the sailor ended up seeing mostly Japan and Korea before being discharged in 1953.
Earl L. Olson, of Fort Dodge, enlisted in the Army at age 17 in 1954. He said he trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was assigned to an artillery unit in what was then West Germany. He was discharged in 1957.
Jeanette M. Olson, the sister of Mathew and Earl Olson, enlisted in the Navy in 1963 after graduating from Fort Dodge Senior High. She served at bases in California and Maryland because during the 1960s the Navy did not assign women to ships. She was discharged in 1966 and now lives in San Diego, Calif.
Three children of Mathew C. Olson served in the military.
Susan M. Olson is one of them, She enlisted in the Army in 1972 after graduating from Eagle Grove High School. She said she wanted to get away from Iowa and see things around the world. She added that she picked the Army instead of the Navy because she couldn't swim.
She said when she first entered the service she was a member of the Women's Army Corps because women weren't fully integrated into the Army. She said the Women's Army Corps was eliminated in 1975.
She served eight years of active duty. During that time she was stationed in Germany and Italy. After completing her active duty, she became a full-time member of the Army Reserve. Her first Army Reserve assignment was in St. Paul, Minn. Later, she was transferred to Fort Dodge and helped to establish the Pvt. Edwin J. Lemke Army Reserve Center on Webster County Road P56, which opened in 1997.
Susan M. Olson retired from the Army in 1999 with the rank of master sergeant.
Her sister, Theresa L. Olson-Larson, was a member of the Army Reserve from 1974 to 1976. She now lives in Maryville, Ill.
Jody D. Olson, the brother of Susan M. Olson and Theresa L. Olson-Larson, went into the Navy after graduating from Twin Rivers-Bode Senior High School. He enlisted in 1976 and retired in 1997. He served on submarines. Today, he lives in San Diego, Calif.
The family's military tradition will continue with Allison Holcomb, a granddaughter of Earl L. Olson. She'll enter the Marine Corps next year after graduating from high school.