Decorated WWII Vet Keeps On Giving

Bob-Erikson-562x374The following was originally posted on The Salvation Army Northern Division’s blog.

Bob Erikson is a World War II veteran who knows a thing or two about giving up something precious in order to help others. In his case, that precious something is his life. He nearly gave it in combat … twice.

In December 1944, Erikson was run over by an American tank near St. Vith, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He was marching behind the tank, trudging through the snow. An unexpected shelling from the Germans prompted the tank driver to slam the vehicle into reverse. Erikson dove most of himself out of the way, but got his legs caught underneath the track.

Erikson spent months recovering, then got right back onto the battlefield. In May 1945, while Erikson and fellow Airborne troops were pushing into Germany, he was shot through the chest. The bullet missed his heart by centimeters, punctured a lung, bounced off a rib, and exited out his back. Blood was bubbling from his mouth. He thought he was going to die.

Thankfully, God had other plans. Erikson survived, and would spend five months in several hospitals until he was discharged in early September, days after the war officially ended. He was awarded both a Purple Heart (with cluster) and Bronze Star Medal.

Service from another Army

Bob-Erikson-300x200Some would say that Erikson, 95, has given enough during his lifetime. He would say otherwise.

“It pays to be good to people – and The Salvation Army does a better job of that than anyone in the world,” said Erikson, who started giving to The Salvation Army regularly almost 40 years ago.

He speaks about The Salvation Army from experience. When Erikson was a teenager living in St. Cloud, Minnesota, The Salvation Army delivered Christmas dinner to his family three years in a row. Times were tough – his father had died, leaving his mother dependent on welfare.

From then on, Erikson said, “The Salvation Army always interested me.”

Another fond memory: In 1939, Erikson remembers having a beer with his buddies at a St. Cloud watering hole, where a girl from The Salvation Army was asking for donations.

“She was getting ridiculed,” he recalled. “To show everybody up, I gave her 25 cents – that was a lot of money back then. I was impressed by that girl. She had a lot of courage, and really believed in what she was doing.”

Giving back

Erikson has since lost his wife, and has outlived three of his six children. He lives by himself in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Although his eyesight is giving out, he can walk just fine and his mind is tack-sharp. Even better, both of his hearts continue to beat strong – the one inside his chest, and the other that compels him to give.

In addition to his annual gifts, Erikson donates to The Salvation Army in a special way: through Charitable Gift Annuities. In exchange for these gifts, The Salvation Army makes guaranteed payments to him for life and he receives a charitable tax deduction. Once God calls him home, The Salvation Army will use whatever money is left to help people in need.

Through a Charitable Gift Annuity, a person Erikson’s same age could, for example, give a $5,000 gift and receive annual payments of about $450 for life, plus enjoy a $3,500 charitable tax deduction.

“A gift annuity seemed like a good deal to me,” Erikson said. “It lets me help The Salvation Army and give myself some income in the meanwhile. I started doing these 10 years ago – my wife was all for me giving money to The Salvation Army.”

Granted, Erikson joked, “I’m living so long, The Salvation Army might lose money on this deal.”

Charitable gift annuities are just one way The Salvation Army’s Planned Giving team can transform your estate plans into a bona fide legacy that helps you, your loved ones, and people served by The Salvation Army.

In addition to gift annuities, the team specializes in helping you donate stock or gifts from your IRA account, write The Salvation Army into your will, donate land, and more.

“Some donors get very creative,” said David Overstake, Planned Giving director. “One lady set up a simple gift arrangement that pays her grandson $400 on his birthday for life. The options are limitless.”

No matter what type of gift you give The Salvation Army, you should first consult with your professional tax advisor, financial planner, or both.

To learn more, contact the Planned Giving team today at 651-746-3504 in the Twin Cities or 800-456-4483 in Greater Minnesota or North Dakota.