FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Ed Middleton honorably served his country during World War II as an officer in the 30th Infantry Division (currently restructured as the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team), but his service to the military community did not end with the war. Today, at the age of 92, he is an active member of the 30th Infantry Division Association, the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry, and volunteers weekly at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, here.
He can usually be found standing near the glider in the World War II section of the museum, clad in his dress uniform, ready to share stories of the 30th's deep history, and the experiences of his fellow soldiers.
Friend and fellow museum volunteer, Ann Feinstein, asked Middleton to appear at the nearby Veterans Memorial Park for what he was ambiguously told would be a dedication ceremony by the 30th today. In actuality, through a service network known as Soldiers Angels, Feinstein had collected more than 60 postcards, mailed from across the globe, showcasing thankful sentiments toward Middleton. Ann carefully had compiled them into a scrapbook and planned to present them to him during a surprise ceremony involving a few of Middleton's peers, as well as soldiers currently serving in the 30th ABCT, North Carolina National Guard.
"They called me and asked me to make sure I came in class A's," Middleton said of the guise. "I had an inkling. Yeah, I had an inkling." he said with a chuckle.
Feinstein had the idea to begin the project during a recent conversation with Middleton's son, Kirk Richardson, who also volunteers at the museum. She said they were talking about the missed opportunities to thank veterans who have passed, and she wanted to find a way thank Middleton today.
"We started talking about honoring Ed and I wanted to get him the book, for all of his selfless service to his community and country," she said.
"I put the call out through the [online] forums, and within five days the first card started coming in. Then there were as many as 10-a-day sometimes."
Cards came in from nearly 40 states, as well as foreign countries such as Australia, Denmark, Holland, and Canada.
"There's even a card from a 9-year-old," She said. "Every one has a message thanking Ed for his service. Every. Single. One."
Middleton said he appreciated the gift and was looking forward to reading his postcards as soon as he was home.
"It's outstanding how they can get them from people from all over the world," Middleton said.