Kansan Answers Nation’s Call of Duty Twice

U.S. Army First Sergeant Richard Flowers holds the guidon for 1161 Forward Support Company.

U.S. Army First Sergeant Richard Flowers holds the guidon for
1161 Forward Support Company.

Richard Flowers was on his first tour of duty in Iraq when he opened a letter from his young son. Located inside was a picture of him and his son holding hands along with the words “I can’t wait until you get home and can take me to a baseball game.”

“It still gets to me and brings back good memories,” said Flowers, now a retail associate in Topeka, KS. “I kept that photo hanging up. My son is going to graduate this year, so when he graduates I’m going to show him that letter.”

The letter also serves as a reminder to Flowers of the importance of every piece of mail sent through his office to a deployed service member.

“That could be their letter with somebody saying the same thing to them,” he said.

Flowers enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school in 1982. He became a radar operator and later a mechanic working on Howitzers and the M1 Tank. After 15 years, he retired from active duty, enlisted in the National Guard and took the Postal Exam.

Topeka, KS, Retail Associate Richard Flowers.

Topeka, KS, Retail Associate Richard Flowers.

In 1998 he was hired as a rural carrier relief and then as a clerk at the Topeka plant. “I worked on the FSM 1000 and I just loved keying the mail,” said Flowers.

With Operation Iraqi Freedom well underway, Flowers was deployed in 2004 to Iraq, where, as a maintenance supervisor, he was responsible for all the machinery and parts needed to keep the vehicles running.

After 13 months of duty, Flowers returned home to his family and his USPS job. Less than a year later, he was asked to return to Iraq. Despite Army rules that would have allowed him to decline the deployment, he accepted.

“The second tour was with my company and I was the first sergeant,” said Flowers. “When I got picked, I couldn’t stay here and let my company go. So I waived my time and went with them. My company was responsible for base and convoy security.” Responsibilities that required constant surveillance.

“Every time you’d go outside the base gate you’d basically have to keep your head on a swivel,” said Flowers. “You prepare yourself for anything and you hope that nothing happens.”

Flowers earned several awards and ribbons, including a Bronze Star, the fourth-highest individual U.S. military award.

He has greatly appreciated the support of the USPS in his military service.

“All we had to do was tell our supervisors when we had a drill and they would put it on the schedule for us,” said Flowers.

With his postal background, he often oversaw the operations of the base Post Office. “That way everybody got their mail,” he said with a grin.

To get mail — from anybody — was always a highlight of the day. “We would get care packages from people we didn’t even know,” he said. In response, his company flew several U.S. flags on Sept. 11, along with a “This flag flew in Iraq on September 11” certificate, and shipped it to the groups that sent the care packages.

His nearly 30-year military career now behind him, Flowers works four hours a day at the Topeka transportation hub, and four hours at North Topeka Station. His pleasant personality, big smile and sense of humor make him a customer favorite. “I’ll tell customers if they take their receipt to the donut shop they will give you a free cup of coffee, although they’ll pour the coffee in your hand,” said Flowers with a smile.“ Just little things like that to interact with the customers. I love my job.”

He also enjoys a challenge. He once appeared on the TV game show “The Weakest Link — Postal Edition.

“The show was filmed in February 2001, but it didn’t air until August,” he said. “So, all that time everyone was teasing me saying, ‘hey, it’s the weakest link.’ I never told them that I ended up winning the show and $6,000. When they saw I won, you should have seen the looks on their faces. Being on that game show was the most nervous I was until I got to Iraq.”

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1 Comment

  1. George Berry

     /  December 30, 2014

    Thanks for your service. Proud to know of your dedication to the Military and the U S Postal Service.

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