The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will give 16 commendable veterans from Washington County the opportunity to make a trip to Washington D.C. on April 16.
Serving in the United States Navy seems to be a family tradition for the Goeltz family.
Earl Goeltz, 81, is a Korean War era veteran. Both his father and uncle served in the Navy during the World War I.
Mr. Goeltz’ youngest son, Mike, also served in the Navy for five years until 1997, and his nephew won the Bronze star in the Army in Vietnam. Goeltz’ sister was also an Army nurse.
Earl Goeltz started his journey with the United States military in 1952 at the age of 17 when he first joined the Wisconsin National Guard.
Upon graduating from Ashland High School, Goeltz immediately committed to the Navy and served four years on a destroyer known as the USS Walker DDE-517, spending “most of our time on the Western Pacific in the Korea and Japan area… and the war was still going on, but they [the countries] signed an armistice while I was still in basic training.” Goeltz completed his basic training in San Diego.
“I was a shipfitter, and we were in the repair division of the ship. We took care of the firefighting equipment… basically any repairs the needed to be done,” said Goeltz. He served on an anti-submarine warfare vessel, also a converted WWII destroyer.
Goeltz remarked that Navy terminology is something that has stuck with him for all his life. “The love affair that sailors have with ships is something else. When the people ask me ‘Where does it hurt?’ Well, it hurts on the port side or it hurts on the starboard side,” laughed Goeltz.
After serving his four years in the Navy, Goeltz returned to Wisconsin, looking for employment at Splicewood Corporation, the job he had prior to his time in the service. “I started out at $1.25 an hour, and when I came back from the Navy, I came back and knocked on their door, asking for my job back and four years later, it was still $1.25 an hour!” said Goeltz.
After a couple weeks, Goeltz decided to work for a railroad company for about three months. Eventually, he decided college would best fit and moved to the Washington County area, earning a “2-year associates degree in a metal’s program” at MSOE.
During his college days, Goeltz worked at American Motors, a career he would continue after graduating for 18 years. He found great success, moving from a supervisor’s job and beyond.
“I really wanted to work in steel… even in the Navy that was the kind of stuff I did on the ship,” he said. After American Motors, Goeltz moved on LTV in Milwaukee, a steel mill based out of Pittsburgh, for 20 years until retirement in 1997. He continues to reside in Washington County today.
It was also not long after Goeltz’ time in the service he met his wife at a dance hall in Milwaukee. “I asked her for a date later on, and,” smiled Goeltz, “she didn’t say no, and that was money in the bank.”
Goeltz is “glad and looking forward to the opportunity” to make the trip the Washington D.C. in April. “My executive officer on my ship was killed in a heli[copter] accident in 1972, and his name should be on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial,” said Goeltz.
Tom Goeltz, Earl’s oldest son, will be his dad’s guardian.