Roger Strack of Kewaskum is waking up a bit exhausted today, that’s because he spent Wednesday in Washington D.C. on the Old Glory Honor Flight.
This was the 34th mission for the Old Glory Flight based out of Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton.
Strack talked about his service in the Army during a Saturday afternoon at his home.
“I entered the Army on Feb. 2 1951,” he said.
Strack was 18 years old and had just graduated West Bend High School. He was working as a mechanic at the Ford garage, currently the parking lot of Tennies Ace Hardware.
“My brother-in-law Harry Roecker from West Bend enlisted at the same time,” he said.
Strack spoke rather fondly of his time in the service and how he and Roecker were side by side for their tours of duty.
After enlisting the pair took a train to Fort Sheridan and another to Fort McNair in Washington D.C.
Early on Strack found himself teaching other soldiers how to drive a 5-ton truck. “I also drove jeep delivering messages to generals,” he said.
“I remember this one sergeant started a logging camp and he got a saw and I said that looks like one where you saw a woman in half.” Strack wasn’t sure everyone appreciated his sense of humor.
Strack and Roecker were shipped from one base to another. They traveled by train to California and then on to New Jersey and then took a ship to Greenland. “It was only supposed to take two weeks but it took a month because of the ice,” he said.
A fast talker and passionate about his past, Strack spoke excitedly as he recalled how some of his buddies climbed right off the ship onto an iceberg.
“Half way up in the North Atlantic we transferred from a Navy attack ship to a cruiser,” he said. “So we had to haul all our earthly belongings – we had to climb down, go in a boat across the ocean and then back up onto a cruiser,” he said.
Strack was supposed to run M boats in Greenland for about three months, but there were many soldiers and too few jobs and he ended up working in the kitchen on the base.
“I had to drive a truck and go get food but there was always beer stashed away so I’d sneak it out and put it under the seat for all the guys,” he said.
Strack is still over 6-feet tall. His hair is white, his pace a little slower but his memory is extremely sharp and he’s very computer savvy.
Always a shutterbug, Strack purchased his first 35 mm camera at the Post Exchange or PX in the military. He has hundreds of photos copied from scrapbooks and loaded into his computer.
There are pictures of his travels watching bullfights in Europe, on the streets in France and sightseeing in Italy. “We took a lot of air hops,” said Strack. “We’d get on a military airplane and then hitchhike.”
Returning from Greenland, Strack was told he’d get train tickets to Washington. “We were told we’d be able to turn the tickets in for cash and we figured we could make some good money if we sold them and found our own way to Washington,” he said. “Problem was they didn’t give us the tickets until the train was moving so we got them, jumped off the train, had no idea where we were so we hitchhiked.”
Shipped to France in 1952, Strack and Roecker worked as boat coxswain. “A lot of service felt like I was in Boy Scouts,” Strack said.
Discharged in Jan. 10, 1953 at Fort Custer, Michigan the pair took a train home. “I went right back to the Ford Company and then I went to Larson’s Furniture, but that was real boring,” he said. “I was even repairing televisions for a while and I had no idea what I was doing.”
On May 5, 1958 Strack opened Roger and Dan’s repair shop in Kewaskum.
Eager to return to Washington D.C., Strack said he was interested in seeing as much as he could. His guardian was going to be assigned on the flight.