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Carroll County Veteran Lee Kestler encourages young people to join the military, honor those who served

With more than 11,000 veterans living in Carroll County, residents and businesses have been working to honor those who served in the U.S. military.

One such honoree was Maryland Army National Guard veteran Lee Kestler Sr., who shared part of his own story this Veterans Day along with how the community has given back to him.

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Kestler, 80, joined the military when he was 19 years old and said “it was a great experience” for him.

“I got to see a lot of things that I never have before,” said the Sykesville resident who volunteered to serve between 1960 and 1966.

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Being promoted several times, Kestler eventually was assigned as the driver for his battalion commander, a responsibility he described as unique.

“All veterans should be recognized, whether they passed in action or not, for the fact that they’ve chosen to give years of their life up to serve the country,” he said, adding many veterans find themselves in a role of continual community service after retirement.

After Kestler retired from the National Guard as a staff sergeant, he held several jobs in the county, including soccer coach at Liberty High School between 1982 and 2004. He is also a board member for the Gamber and Community Fire Company.

“I’ve always been active in the community,” he said.

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Kestler encourages more young people to join the military, citing benefits such as “ways to earn money for college,” the opportunity to develop camaraderie within their unit and seeing different ways of life firsthand.

To honor the county’s veterans, many businesses are offering promotions. One such business is C&A Automotive.

This Eldersburg auto shop is running its fifth annual Back on the Road initiative, where veterans from Eldersburg or Sykesville who are in need of car or truck service are nominated by family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to receive $2,500 toward auto repair and maintenance services.

Each year, the business selects two veterans to get the service. Kestler is a past winner.

“I had a Ford Escape at the time which had several things wrong with it,” he said. “C&A Automotive took care of everything and they gained a new customer … It just kind of fell into place.”

Adam Langmead, owner of C&A Automotive, said he started the Back on the Road initiative “to give back a little” in a way he felt could make a difference.

“I have family members and friends who are veterans … They sacrifice a lot of their life, and sometimes the rest of their life,” to serve the country and its citizens, he said. “This is what I’m good at and what I can do to help.”

County Commissioner President Ed Rothstein a veteran himself, said Veterans Day is “an opportunity to not only thank veterans” but also to support them.

“Veterans aren’t just looking for thanks or flagpoles or monuments,” he said. “They’re looking for the support they need, even when not asked.”

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