DDGM District 7, as of March 2024

Why I became a Freemason.

By: Clay Kuehn
District Deputy Grand Master

Clayton Kuehn

“Why did you become a Mason?” I have heard this question more times than I can count over the last almost thirty years. The first answer that comes to mind is curiosity.

I only gave that answer a little thought until I attended the 147th Grand Lodge communication at Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso, New Mexico, in March 2024. This thought was triggered when the Grand Master recounted memories of his grandfather and how he “carried himself differently” than other adult males who knew growing up.

That struck me because I never even knew that any man in my family, either on my father’s or my mother’s side, was or ever had been a Mason. Growing up as an Army brat in the late 1950s through the early 1970s, that was never discussed. If it was, I was never around to hear about it.

Growing up, I saw the Square & Compass emblem on certain buildings, but I never gave it much thought as I never saw anyone there or any activity whatsoever, and the buildings always seemed to be closed. Back then, discipline was the order of the day, and not wanting to get in trouble for trespassing, I just kept on walking.

As a soldier in many places worldwide, I saw that same emblem, and my curiosity grew. I still needed to learn what that emblem meant and what went on inside those buildings. I have always had an analytical mind, and I started laying the pieces out so they made some sense. I noticed that the men who entered these buildings did so quietly but with a definite and distinct purpose. I noticed that most of them wore a ring with that same emblem. At the time, I thought it was just some schoolboy fraternity or something. Little did I know then that I had only started to scratch the surface of something far more significant than I could ever imagine.

One day, in the fall of 1993, while stationed at Ft Campbell, KY, I saw a civilian at the post message center with whom I had interacted on several occasions. I was there when he arrived, and I noticed that same Square & Compass emblem on his car’s rear windshield. It was then that curiosity got the better of me. I finished my business inside and went looking for his office. I just came out and asked him what that emblem was about. I did not know it then, but I had just taken my first step in Freemasonry.

As this man was a Tennessee Mason and I lived in Kentucky, he could not get me into a Lodge, but he knew someone who could. That someone was not a block from my unit and just happened to be the Fort Campbell Lodge 946 F&AM Secretary. We walked in, and my friend told this man, “I think that this man would make a good Mason.” He handed me a petition. I filled it out, turned it in, and waited.

A couple of weeks passed, and I get a phone call asking if a couple of men could stop by my quarters to have a “talk” with me and my wife. The conversation was light and very informal. It was nothing like the interrogation I had supposed it to be. They asked me what I did as hobbies. I told them I like hunting, fishing, playing with computers, and cooking. Their eyes lit up as big as saucers. My wife then mentioned that her father, also an Army veteran (Korean and Vietnam era), had sometimes worn “a funny-looking red hat” when he went out. Funny, she had never mentioned that before, but I just let it go.

Another week went by, and I heard nothing. Then, out of the blue, I got another call asking if I could be at the Lodge on Tuesday evening. I will always remember that day—7 December 1993. It was that evening that my life changed in a way I had never imagined.

Due to a couple of things, called life and the Army, five months elapsed before I received my Master Mason Degree. These degrees are always done on a Saturday evening in this Lodge. I thought I was prepared for what was about to happen, and I could not have been more wrong. All the events of that evening were so burned into my mind, to this day, I can remember them all as if they had just happened five minutes ago.

I retired from the Army in July 1995 and drove over the road in a flatbed. The unpredictability of my schedule really put a damper on my Lodge attendance. For over eighteen years, between driving, moving around, going to college, and moving some more, I was lost when it came to Freemasonry.

I had a very close second cousin whose father had been a Mason. She had always told me that I needed to get back into the Lodge. Several years later, I met a man in North Carolina who happened to be a Scottish Rite Mason with whom I had many conversations about Freemasonry. This man was one of those who, like my own grandfather, when he starts talking, you shut up because, in spite of yourself, you are going to learn something. He, too, told me that I needed to get back into the Lodge.

In May of 2013, I took another massive step in my life. I packed up everything and moved from Florida to New Mexico. When I arrived, I finally took the well-founded advice from those two people, got back into the Lodge, and never looked back.

During this fantastic journey, I discovered that Freemasonry is about one thing—service. I learned this concept even before I became a soldier. Service before self is a life lesson I have always lived by.

Over the years, I have told many people that if you remove the pretty uniforms, the pretty jewels, and the fancy titles, Freemasonry boils down to one essential thing—helping other people. Helping a brother or anybody else when they are down should not be a handout but a hand-up. That is why I became a Mason.

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