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For retired 1st Sgt. Larry Walko, tax season is a time to help others.
After joining the military in 1971, Walko served more than 20 years in the military and now volunteers at the Fort Knox Tax Center for the joy of helping others.
“I like helping people out,” he said.
Walko also spent time as a JROTC instructor in Pittsburgh for 10 years. He later worked with the U.S. Army Armor School at Fort Knox until its move to Fort Benning, Ga. He said he has moved around enough and recently built a house the way he liked it, so he decided to stay near Fort Knox.
He worked at General Electric Appliance Park in Louisville for about a year and decided that kind of work was not for him.
At 61 years old, he is retired and spends his time volunteering on post and at tax assistance locations in Brandenburg and Muldraugh.
The Fort Knox Tax Center offers tax preparation at no cost to active duty soldiers, military retirees and family members with proper military ID.
He doesn’t just help them fill out their tax information, but tries to educate patrons about their taxes, taking the time to explain the process. Recently, Walko helped an 81-year-old man who said no one had explained taxes to him like that before and enjoyed learning about it.
A young girl who worked three minimum wage jobs came to do her taxes and Walko was able to save her money by not having to pay a fee at a commercial tax center, he said.
“It gives you a good feeling about yourself when you’re helping people,” he said.
His goal is to show patrons how easy it is to learn to file a 1040 tax form. He said he enjoys seeing clients learn how to do it as he explains it in detail, line by line. He hopes someone he’s helped will be inspired to volunteer at the center.
He also enjoys working with soldiers at the tax center.
“I fit right in with them and understand their lingo,” he said.
Officer in Charge Capt. Michael Winn said Walko is “a true example of selfless service.”
With an average basic return of $130 or more, Walko’s work at the center saves soldiers money, he said.
“With every tax return he does, he’s putting (money) back into their pocket,” Winn said. “He believes in helping soldiers and helping people with their taxes.”
Sgt. Stephen Warren said Walko always is asking for a new appointment and is thorough with everyone’s taxes.
“He never just sits around,” Warren said. “Everything he’s ever done has come back excellent.”
Walko is at the center two or three days a week and does about 15 to 20 returns a week that always are done right the first time, Warren said.
In his spare time Walko wants to travel to California to visit his daughter and grandchildren. His son was killed in a Nashville hit-and-run accident in 2012.
When he’s not volunteering, Walko is at home mowing his four acres, gardening or doing carpentry work on his house.
He likes bringing excess tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden to give to co-workers.
“I’d rather give it away than throw it away,” he said.
To the west of his home are cows, to the south, horses, and to the east, goats. None are his, but he likes seeing them from his property. He enjoys sitting on his covered deck with his wife, sipping coffee and being outdoors.
“I’ve done a lot in my lifetime and enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m taking it easy and enjoying life.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at 270-505-1741 or email@example.com.
Getting to know Larry Walko:
Television: “Two and a Half Men,” “NCIS,” the History Channel and National Geographic
Sports: New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers
Pet: A Deckard Rat Terrier
Downtime: Mowing his four acres, gardening, sipping coffee and enjoying the view from his deck.