Norbert Riemer was 20 years old when he was plucked from his life as a plumber and drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Korean Conflict in 1952. Now, 64 years later, Riemer will be traveling with 16 other Washington County veterans of foreign wars on the May 14 Honor Flight.
The veterans will depart in the morning to Washington D.C. and spend the day visiting various war memorials, before returning home.
Riemer will be making the trip with his oldest daughter, who convinced him to participate in the experience. “My kids talked me into it,” Riemer said. “I would not have gone but my oldest daughter really pushed it.”
Riemer cited one simple reason for his reservations, “I do not look for any recognition, because heck I was one of what, millions? To me it never made any difference,” Riemer said. Riemer remembered his fallen friends, some that he met in the Army and others he remembers as “neighborhood kids.” “I feel like I’m out without a scratch, that’s the way it is,” Riemer said.
Despite Riemer’s humble self-image, the veteran is still eagerly anticipating the journey. “I’ll tell you what, I am very excited,” Riemer said. He discussed his shock that he was selected for the Honor Flight. “I sort of can’t wait now,” Riemer said.
Riemer is the most eager to see the Korean memorial on the journey. “They have one in Plover, it’s a peninsula going out where you can walk out… I think they have six or seven statues made of bronze. It was a really sunny day and the wife and I were walking down there and there was a slight breeze. I could have sworn the statues were walking, they looked lifelike. I’ve just seen pictures of what they have in Washington, but it’s similar to that. If it’s half as good as what I’ve seen, I’d be more than happy,” Riemer said.
Riemer is also looking forward to the statue of raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
“I do not remember much about that place,” Riemer said thinking about Korea. He does remember his initial impression upon entering Korea. “It stunk,” he said. The routine of waking up, doing his job, and going to bed day after day is ingrained in his memory.
“You can’t call it boring but you can’t call it exciting either,” Riemer said. He expected to be immediately placed in a combat zone. Although an infantry man, once in country Riemer was assigned to guard the headquarters that housed intelligence sections and generals. He remained about two miles away from the front line.
Being oversees, Riemer remembers one main hardship. “I just missed my family, that’s all,” Riemer said. He spent a total of 16 months away from his family. Riemer left the Army as a Private First Class.
Coming home, “it was a good feeling, a very good feeling,” he said. “I had my wife now, she was my girlfriend, I had my mother, and I had my sister, and I just wanted to come home to them,” Riemer said.
He reminisced on never passing by an ice cream parlor or burger restaurant upon returning and was grateful to be rid of the Army rations that prompted an undesired weight loss.
Riemer never considered enlisting before he was drafted. “I really did not like the Army to be honest with you, you really did not have time to think for yourself… I really like my freedom,” Riemer said.
Riemer believes that service changed him. “It made me a better person, I personally believe everyone should go into the service when they get out of high school,” he said. “You have to be a different kind of person to make a life out of it, but I don’t think a draft would hurt anybody, it will make a better person out of them.”