Honor Flight to honor local Korean War heroesOctober 18, 2017
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include information on Korean War veteran James Tuley of Dale who will also participate in the flight.
By ALLEN LAMAN
When they returned home from their service in the Korean War, there wasn’t a big, grand welcoming for them.
But Saturday, three Dubois County veterans and one Spencer County veteran will fly from Evansville to Washington, D.C. for a day of reflection at the capital before coming home to Indiana where a crowd of their families and friends will be waiting for them with smiles and applause.
“I think they say that’s kind of surreal,” said Harold Van Winkle, 85, a Korean War veteran who served for two years and lives in Ferdinand. “Not used to anything like that, but I’m looking forward to it and we’ll see what happens.”
Honor Flight of Southern Indiana is a nonprofit organization that honors American veterans for their sacrifices by organizing the trips and parades as well as covering the costs of the men’s trip to Washington, D.C. According to a press release, priority is given to senior veterans who served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as those who are terminally ill. The three Dubois County veterans are a small part of the 85 who will trek to the nation’s capital Saturday.
Van Winkle served in 1952 and 1953 as a member of the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division antiaircraft. He fought overseas in 1953. There, he was tasked with using .50 caliber machine guns that were mounted on a half-track. Van Winkle will make Saturday’s trip with his son, Gary Van Winkle.
Jim Rose, 88, of Jasper also served in the Korean War for two years and will participate in the flight. Rose was drafted in 1951 and was an active member of the Army until February of 1953. He was a personnel sergeant for battalion headquarters, where he took care of the books and human resources records. He was stationed in Georgia, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois.
“Back in those days you didn’t have any thank you’s coming home,” Rose said. “You just showed up.”
Rose said he’s looking forward to the trip because his son, Brian, has never been to Washington.
He’s glad Honor Flight of Southern Indiana is facilitating the event. Fellow Jasper veteran Leo Eckerle, 88, served in 1952 and 1953 and expects memories to come back while on the trip. But that’s not new — he has them daily. Eckerle spent seven months in the trenches on the frontline of the Korean War as a member of the U.S. Army Infantry and described the time as a painful experience.
“I was fortunate,” he said. “I made it through it all, but there’s hundreds and hundreds of my buddies that never made it. They were best friends one minute and the next minute they were gone.”
He is also grateful for what the Honor Flight organization does and will make the trip with his close friend, Gary Mehringer, whom Eckerle has known since Mehringer was in diapers.
“I can’t even explain it,” he said when asked how the welcoming home will feel. “So great. So great. It’s just unbelievable.”
James Tuley of Dale will also participate in Saturday’s Honor Flight of Southern Indiana trip to Washington, D.C.
Tuley, 90, was drafted by the U.S. Navy in December 1945 and served as an apprentice seaman in the states during the end of World War II. He was drafted again by the U.S. Army in December 1950 to serve in the Korean War, where he served as a corporal medic until 1952.
His son, Dennis, will join him on Saturday’s flight.
In addition to the flight and homecoming, the veterans will also attend a special meet-and-greet dinner Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 300 Court Street, Evansville. Their sendoff will take place at Evansville Regional Airport early Saturday morning and the participants will return for the welcome parade at 9:15 p.m. Saturday.
If you are a veteran who would like to be part of an Honor Flight, if you are a guardian who would make the trip with a veteran or if you’d like to volunteer with Honor Flight, you may fill out an application on Honor Flight of Southern Indiana’s website at www.honorflightsi.org.
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