For all of you that have never written a blog I must say it is not easy. After doing this for several months, I have learned a couple of things. First it takes days, sometimes weeks to think through a topic, second writing a good blog depends on my emotions. Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks have been an emotional train wreck for me.
For those of you that know me and come into the shop on a routine basis know that this is largely a one-man operation. They do not see the efforts of my wife to balance my books, pay my bills, and provide financial accountability. When I first started the shop, I was optimistic that I could find employees that wanted to work and would share my passion about military items. I believed that I could either hire old, retired military Veterans or young beginning military enthusiasts. I soon hired a young Webb City High School Junior who was also a member of the Army ROTC program. He was a good but immature kid, he was bullied and distracted by two other high school students who then stole thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. This happened the first time he was left alone in the shop while I went to lunch with my daughter. Through the efforts of the Webb City Police and the ROTC Department the merchandise was returned.
Soon after I first opened, I met Dylan Paugh. At the time Dylan was 15 and was a WWII Soviet Partisan reenactor. He was an honor student and studied the German language. Two years later when he was ready to work, I hired him thinking he was the perfect match. We spent many hours together learning about shop operations and talking about History. At the time I remember some of my hardest days were spent trying to figure out what was the best way I could utilize his many skills. We went on buying trips together and he listed things on Ebay. I showed him where all my online merchandise was located and prepared for him to handle the sales and shipping while I went on a week-long family vacation. Everything seemed to go well the first day but later that evening he took his own life. I still think about how I somehow failed to provide him the right advice and encouragement.
If you have employees, you know of the administrative burdens needed to comply with all of the Federal, State and Local tax withholding requirements. This along with my history, I decided that it was too difficult to hire additional staff. From here on out I would have to depend on myself and the volunteer efforts of a few friends.
This last week I suffered a great loss when one of my best friends and helpers suddenly passed away. I first met Eric Wiseman in late 2013 when he first came into the shop. We soon became good friends and discovered that we shared many common interests. Eric was a great patriot who joined the Army soon after the 911 Terrorist attack. He was trained as an 88M (wheeled vehicle driver) and deployed to Iraq in support of the OIF 2 rotation. He drove the truck transports that moved M1 tanks.
Over the years our friendship blossomed. In 2015 Eric helped in the move to the new shop and the auction needed to move surplus merchandise. He would help me load the van for shows and went on many buying trips. We attended the Show of Shows in Louisville, KY together many times. I last saw him about three weeks ago and we made plans to have lunch together with another friend, Fred Green, when he was here for a visit. During the third week of January, Eric was admitted to the hospital and was quickly transferred to Columbia. He had a rare form of aggressive cancer and passed away on the 29th of January. I am still coming to grips with his loss and the fragility of life.