June 9, 2017 – Washington Co., WI – Five veterans from Washington County are aboard today’s Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
Gus Szalewski, 87, is a Korean War vet from West Bend. Drafted when he was 21 years old Szalewski was living in Milwaukee at Second Street and Ring. “I was working at the time at Holt Electric Motor Company,” he said. “I started there when I was 17.”
Szalewski went into the Army in 1951. He completed basic training at Fort Smith, Arkansas and was then shipped from Seattle, WA, to Adak, Alaska and finally on to Japan and Seoul, Korea.
“I was in artillery,” said Szalewski. “We shot the 105 mm Howitzer. It was big but it was the smallest of the Howitzers.”
Szalewski remembered he was closest to the enemy. “Our maximum distance for the Howitzer was about four miles,” he said. “After six months I was promoted to gunner.”
Szalewski’s guardian on today’s flight will be his son Dennis.
Steve Zacher, 79, of West Bend will also be on today’s Honor Flight.
Born and raised in North Dakota. In 1954 when he was 17 years old he went down to the Civil Service office and enlisted into the Army.
Zacher went to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training.
“I was in during the Korean Conflict,” said Zacher. Shipped to Germany, Zacher served as an interpreter.
“I could speak German and I worked in artillery,” he said.
Discharged in 1956 Zacher returned to North Dakota, met his wife and packed everything in a 1956 Pontiac. “I drove to Milwaukee with just $13 in my pocket and then I worked for the Bradley Corporation for 30 years and two months.”
Zacher’s youngest daughter will be his guardian on today’s tour.
Other area veterans on the flight include Korean War Air Force jet mechanic Chuck Campbell of Jackson, WWII Marine Ralph Simoneau of Germantown, and Korean War veteran Richard Klumb of West Bend.
The Friday, June 9 flight will be the organization’s 40th “mission” to take off for our nation’s capital. In addition, that day the organization will welcome the 5,000th veteran that the organization will fly to Washington DC since the program began in 2008.