HOWLAND - If you come from a family of military veterans like Chuck Wilmouth, it's understandable why the American flag flies next to the Marine Corps flag in the front yard.
It also explains the street sign in the driveway that allows parking for ''Marines Only.''
The more you talk to Wilmouth, the easier it is to understand the refrigerator magnet displaying the flag and a reminder to ''Pray for our Troops.''
Tribune Chronicle / Christopher Bobby
Chuck Wilmouth, right, and his brother Ronnie served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
''I'm a man of faith,'' said Wilmouth, 70, who grew up on a 25-acre farm in the Kinsman area among 11 brothers and sisters.
His father, Grant, never served in the military. But oldest brother Bill was a Marine, serving in the Pacific in World War II as gunner on a bomber. Brother Grant Jr. was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, serving in the Korean War.
Younger brother Ronnie served three tours of combat duty in Vietnam with the Marines. And a younger brother Raymond served in the U.S. Air Force.
Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
''Even though Dad wasn't a veteran, our family always leaned toward patriotism. Our mother, Mary, earned the nickname Camel Knees because she prayed for us day and night,'' said Wilmouth, who was drawn to the Marine ''focus and discipline.''
''I was interested in the challenge,'' he said, pointing out how only 20 of 80 men in boot camp made in through the training.
Home on leave from Camp Lejeune and days away from shipping out with H Company, Wilmouth was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident near Mosquito Lake.
Instead of heading to the West Coast before Vietnam, Wilmouth found himself in the U.S. Naval Hospital in Philadelphia where he spent 13 months recuperating from two broken legs, a broken arm and elbow, among other injuries.
Once healed, Wilmouth was ready to head west and overseas. After all, he was a member of the unit known as ''Devil Dogs.''
But as fate would have it, his orders were canceled by Lt. Gen. Raymond S. Murray, who took a liking to the 19-year-old from Trumbull County and instead assigned him to a special detail as a liaison with the same hospital where he had been treated.
''That hospital is actually where I grew up. It's where I learned about death and carnage,'' Wilmouth said.
Wilmouth's job was newly created and involved serving as the go-between among soldiers injured in combat and their families. His task involved working with the military's Grave Registry operation and making sure the soldiers under his watch were reconnected with their personal effects, debriefed after leaving battle and constantly monitored.
''It really turned into more than that. I got to know many of the families. It got into helping with morale and counseling,'' said Wilmouth, who also attended dozens of funerals for those who didn't survive.
Part of the job involved preparing the dress blues for Marines who died but hadn't been outfitted in their uniforms for burial.
''It sort of humbles you,'' said Wilmouth, who was in charge of overseeing the needs of between 200 and 400 soldier-patients at any one time.
He points out that amputees in their special hospital ward seemed to have the best morale.
''Sometimes that changed when they were released. A lot of these guys had a tough time coming home. They weren't accepted like other veterans in history. A lot of guys couldn't deal with it,'' he said.
Still, Wilmouth saw occasions like the military patient who committed suicide by jumping from an upper story window at the hospital. Wilmouth, who advanced from lance corporal to staff sergeant in Philadelphia, even had a hand in busting up part of a drug trafficking ring that was transporting heroin and cocaine from Vietnam to the United States and using casualties in their caskets as the means of disguising the dope.
But he learned to deal with the stress while developing a compassionate side that stays with him today.
''I think it sort of bugged Chuck that he never got sent overseas because his orders were canceled,'' said his brother Ronnie, 64. ''I think it might have been meant to be that way, though. It could have saved his life for other work.''
Stateside, however, is where Wilmouth was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It's where he was called out with his military police unit during race riots in Philadelphia.
And it was back home where Wilmouth raised a family while developing a strong faith in his church - the scene where he delivered a keynote address to veterans assembled in the church pews Nov. 11, 2009.
Home is also where Wilmouth polishes up his Harley before another ride and where he occasionally shares a beer with his son Kyle, 27, a Youngstown State University graduate with a degree in electrical engineering who happens to be serving as a 1st lieutenant in the Marines Corps after a tour of combat in Iraq.