Kleve has been involved with the American Legion honor guard for the past 53 years since serving in the Army from 1952-54.
For more than a half century, LeRoy Kleve
has willingly participated in 21-gun salutes, flag presentations, parade marches and other ceremonies as part of Central City's American Legion Post 6.
Kleve's wife, Jeanette, described him as a person who always has to be busy.And with a color guard that sometimes gets called to assist with funerals in Grand Island
or other surrounding communities, his
American Legion activity helps keep him that way. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kleve moved to Central City at age 11.He served as a staff sergeant in the Army during the Korean War.He
was drafted in 1952 and stayed stateside for two years, training new recruits how to use 90- and 120-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
returned to Central City in 1954, he
remained in the National Guard
for about 18 months. He has been active in the American Legion since his return, and for the last 16 years has been elected to serve as the post commander.
Now at age 76, Kleve
has watched the American Legion
's numbers shrink from 440 people in 1984 to about 230 members currently.
"It's discouraging because it's hard to keep the young guys interested," Kleve
The honor guard presents military honors at about 12 to 18 funerals per year.Many of the funerals they covered in the past year were for their own American Legion
post members, Kleve
"Any post that calls and can't have enough (honor guard members), we will go help them," he
said."That's why we got it."
Organizing the honor guard can be a difficult task for Kleve
, whose 18 uniformed honor guard members live in areas in and outside of Central City and have a variety of job commitments.Finding enough men for a funeral full military honors take 12 members often requires him to set aside personal plans and make hours of phone calls.But to Kleve
, it's worth it.
"I just enjoy doing (it)," he
said."I worry about if I don't and it drops down there won't be anybody to do it.I think it's a good service to our post."
During the next year, Kleve
hopes to bring in more members and help them see the benefits of being a part of the American Legion
membership is about showing his
patriotism for the U.S.
"I'd still fight for it today if I had to, and that's the way I feel," he
said. In addition to his work with the American Legion, Kleve has worked as the town's "fix-it guy," helping with odd jobs whenever he's needed.He has done it since he retired from Central City Public Schools as the district's transportation director 11 years ago.
"I fix anything if it's fixable," he
said. He has also been a member of the volunteer fire department for 44 years and in the past helped run the ambulance service as an EMT.
How long will he
keep at it?
"As long as I feel good," Kleve