Herbert “Herb” Kahrer
By Chris Alexander, Gulfport Admissions Officer
Once a Marine, always a Marine. It is more than a saying; it is how Herb Karhrer lives his life. Born in New Castle, PA, Herbert “Herb” Kahrer grew up wanting to serve his county. He knew from stories of World War II that he wanted to be a Marine or a fighter pilot.
When Kahrer was 12 he started working at a small local airport because of his love of flying. He did odd jobs and as time passed he became friends with those at the airport and was given flying lessons; at the age of 16 he flew his first solo. He was one of the youngest pilots to ever complete a solo flight at his airport and even made the local paper. His father has told him if he ever failed a subject in school he would not allow him to fly anymore. That day came shortly after his first solo.
He decided staying at home was no longer an option. He knew he wanted to serve his county but wasn’t old enough and he knew he didn’t want to stay at home. At 16 years old he told the girl with whom he shared his locker to turn in his books and he hit the road. For about two years. He wandered around the county for almost two years, mostly in the southeast areas of Alabama and Georgia, eventually ended up in California. He lied about his age and got a job working in a General Motors assembly line.
The day Kahrer turned 18 years old he enlisted in the Marines. A lifelong passion finally fulfilled. But he still has to quit his job. Knowing that he was leaving for boot camp right away he needed to get paid and the only way his 18 year old mind thought was to get fired. An always hardworking and diligent employee his boss noticed a difference and asked why. Kahrer responded, “I am leaving for boot camp tomorrow morning and I need my money today and if I get fired I get paid.” His boss told him not to worry about and in fact “there might be a little extra in your final pay and you have a job when you come back.” He left the next morning and never came back. The Marines became his life.
After being stationed in Japan, Okinawa and several bases in the United States, Kahrer went off to fight in Vietnam in 1964. He was relocated to Hawaii for six months of training later that year, then re-entered the war in 1965. He was stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 1966. That October he married. About six months later Kahrer requested he be sent back to Vietnam. His commander asked if he was having marital problems and his answer was, “No, but I’m a Marine infantryman and there’s a war going on and I want to be there.”
It was during the last month of this stint that Kahrer was shot twice. The first wound was superficial, but the second one, in July 1968, injured his arm bad enough to land him in a military hospital for six months and lead to his medical retirement. At that time, Kahrer was a gunnery sergeant.
After retiring from the military he worked several jobs in law enforcement and eventually retired from Rockwell International, Axle Works in New Castle, Pennsylvania. He continued to serve his county volunteering with various youth programs, after his retirement.
Mr. Kahrer has been a resident of both AFRH homes. In 2005 he moved into the DC home and remained there, expect for an 18 moth hiatus, until his admission to the Gulfport home in 2013. When asked what he liked about Gulfport, Kahrer stated, “I like the digs and the food is outstanding!”
When asked what he liked most about serving his country, Kahrer said, “Being a Marine—doing Marine things. I wouldn’t change anything I did.”
Herb Kahrer dancing with a bridesmaid at his niece’s wedding. Still looking sharp in his Marine uniform. (Picture)