In honor of the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, three residents of Garden Place senior living centers shared memories of America’s first war to halt the worldwide spread of communism.
On July 27, the U.S. will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of its involvement in the war.
Gene Haller, formerly of Columbia and now a resident of Garden Place in Waterloo, was drafted in the second group out of Monroe County.
“I missed the World War II draft by one call,” Haller said. “I was home free until Korea broke out.”
Sent to supply school, he was assigned to a special “bastard” group of soldiers who served in the Army but worked for the newly formed U.S. Air Force on several stateside bases.
“I was very fortunate I did not have to go to Korea,” he said. “A very close friend who was drafted one call ahead of me was killed there.”
Millstadt Garden Place resident Oliver Dahm, 89, survived a bullet wound to the head, receiving a Purple Heart for his service. Fellow Millstadt Garden Place resident Dale Brandenburger, 86, volunteered to serve despite his best friend being killed in combat.
“The Korean War was plain hell, a mess, and an experience that I do not care to do over again,” Dahm said.
After taking a bullet to the head in a firefight in which he was the only survivor of his tank, he spent three months re- covering in Japan before returning to Korea.
“I went through many challenging experiences in the Korean War, but it has made me even more proud to be an American,” Dahm said. “I am proud to have done something for my country, I am proud of my service, and I am proud of those currently serving our country. To our current soldiers, I say ‘do your best and stick it out.’”
Brandenburger delayed his wedding plans and rearranged his life when he was called up to report for Army duty. Like many soldiers, he experienced a multitude of emotions — from anger to eagerness to do his part.Korean War veteran Oliver Dahm displays his Purple Heart.
“In the Medical Corps, I received a college degree and became an optician, so that I could make glasses for the military,” shared Brandenburger. “My experience in the military makes me appreciate all of the people that choose to serve our great country for their entire career.”
Haller, Dahm, Brandenburger and other Korean War veterans at Garden Place of Millstadt and Garden Place of Waterloo will be honored during a special ceremony recognizing the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War. The ceremony will take place Saturday, July 27, as a tribute to all the soldiers and families that sacrificed every- thing to preserve freedom and democracy.
Also to celebrate the anniversary of the end of the Korean War, the Millstadt VFW and American Legion Post 502 will partner to offer a pork steak dinner from 4 to 6 p.m. on July 27 at the VFW Post to any Korean War veteran.
Reservations are requested for this community dinner, and proof of eligibility may be required at the door for Korean War veterans who are not already members of Millstadt VFW Post 7980 and American Legion Post 502 (DD Form 214, another veteran fraternal membership number, or any other military paperwork that shows proof of participation in the Korean War).
To reserve a spot at this free dinner, call the Millstadt VFW at 476-1180. Family and friends are invited to join by reserving dinner at a price of $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under.