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Veteran praised for helping youth despite battling his own hardships

OKLAHOMA - “Proud to be a veteran,” said Charles Erwin.

But, this battle isn’t his time in the service. It’s the one he’s fighting right now.

"When I say that he's inspiring, there are things that he goes through, but he still gets up and he cares about these boys and gets up and comes here instead of saying, forget about that,” Cormiere Bishop said. “I have my own life to deal with."

And there is a lot to deal with. Erwin’s teenage daughter was murdered back in 1989 – a decades-long battle with grief he’s fought every single day. Defeat is not an option. His daughter’s accused killer is just now heading to trial in California.

"Mr. Erwin has always just been tireless with making sure that the boys get everything that they need, and recently, he's gone through some family issues and had to be out of state, and even while he's dealing with those family issues, he's still texting and calling to make sure those boys are taken care of,” Bishop said. "I'm just inspired by him and his dedication, and that's why I want to pay it forward."

Erwin spent more than 20 years in the American Legion and has volunteered his time to Boys and Girls State at Choctaw High School.

"I love to work with the boys. I love to work with the school. I love kids. They're my passion,” Erwin said. "I spent six years in the Air Force and then I went in the Army, and I spent 16 years there. I'm a retired army master sergeant. If I was called up again, I'd go in a heartbeat."

But, in a way, he has been called up again. It is just a different kind of battle – one led by example.

"It doesn't stop me. It's a very challenging trial that I'm going through, very mental, very hard, but my passion is here,” he said.

Erwin traveled to California to attend the trial of his daughter’s murderer.

Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.