Marion veteran heading to inauguration ceremonies

By Arnold Wyrick
MARION, IL (KFVS) - The year was 1974 and Karen Absher of Marion, Illinois was a young rebellious 20 year old graduating from Ball University.  She decided she needed to do something with her life, and choose to join the U.S. Navy.
"I really enjoyed my time in the Navy," Absher said.  "And then I got pregnant and couldn't perform my duties anymore.  So they gave me an honorable discharge and I moved on."
But the military would draw her back a few years later when she enlisted in the U.S. Army.
"I ended up down in Arizona training officers in radio communications," she said.  "And then out to the Pentagon.  I was only a few miles from there when the plane crashed into our nation's capital.  I began to withdraw from my friends, family and life."
It wasn't until she moved to southern Illinois and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that she understood her fears of public places and being around strangers.
For the next several years she couldn't even leave her house without someone by her side.  Then she says she heard a speech by Barack Obama that changed everything.
"About a year and a half ago I heard Senator Obama, at the time, give a speech," Absher said. "And he moved me like I have not been moved since President Kennedy.  And I thought to myself this man should be president."
She joined the legions of Obama supporters and began campaigning across southern Illinois and Missouri. She estimates she made thousands of phone calls to undecided voters across the nation.
"I even went door to door in Marion," Absher said.  "I wasn't very welcomed at most homes but I did it.  I was the only one in my neighborhood with Obama's campaign signs in my yard and on my car.  I've had my house egged.  I've had my car egged."
That still didn't stop Karen from doing everything in her power to get the former Senator from Illinois elected to the White House.
"The minute he was elected I thought I have to be there," she said.  "I have to be there when he takes the oath of office.  I've walked door to door with him for the almost a year, and I want to walk right up to the front door of the white house with him."
Now she's going to get to do almost that this next Tuesday.  Karen wrote Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and several other senators about how Barack Obama changed her life.  Just one week before the inauguration ceremonies she got a call from Senator Durbin's office asking her how many tickets she'd like to have to attend the ceremonies.
"I've written Obama so many letters because I thought it was important for him to know one person's story of how he changed that person's live," she said with tears in her eyes.  "I'm just glad I was a part of it, and I just still can't believe that I'm going to be there."