Eighty-year-old Kenneth Steiner of Germantown served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, married, raised a family, retired at age 75 and says he has ‘no regrets.’ On May 14 he will be on a plane to Washington D.C. as an Honor Flight recipient with his oldest daughter, Kimberly, by his side.
Steiner enlisted in the Air Force at age 17 because “I knew I’d have to sign up for the draft for the Army and being given an enemy rifle and throwing me in the freezing cold didn’t sound like a good idea, so I thought I’d learn something in the technical skills in the Air Force.” Steiner felt the Air Force “had more options.”
A 17-year-old cousin was also influential in Steiner’s enlistment having joined the Air Force just over a month prior to Steiner. The cousin wrote to Steiner and told him the Air Force “wasn’t too bad” and encouraged Steiner to consider it.
Steiner served in the U.S. Air Force Military Air Transport (MAT) from 1953 to 1957; he was based out of Dover, Delaware and assigned Commissioning Chief then Crew Chief for the last year.
Steiner was also a part of the flight crew that “flew for the UN, England, Canada” because at that time we had a “C124-B which was the only large cargo plan that was available. We could carry like 200 people plus all their machine guns and everything. Or we could take a fire engine and drive it right in front and load it up. We could carry like 48 tons.”
Steiner has seen his share of the world having flown to “Greenland twice, then Brazil, every state in the Union, Canada, Europe, France, England, Azores, North Africa, India, Ascension Islands, Trinidad. So basically, everything but the Pacific.”
“Everybody needed our aircraft, “said Steiner. “Because I was single and I really didn’t care where I went most of the time, you know, some of the missions I didn’t know where I was going. They’d give you a passport when you got on board your plane because you couldn’t call home.”
“It was quite an adventure for a 17-year-old kid,” Steiner concluded.
Steiner attained the rank of Staff Sergeant one year before he ended his term of service in 1957.
Asked if there was any specific memory he would like to share, Steiner offered, “I got to see the Taj Mahal before it was opened up to the public. It was rather outstanding. I saw a lot of things people will never see… I was in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan. You can’t even go there anymore. We were constantly on the move.”
“I didn’t think much about it time in service until this opportunity, the Honor Flight, came up; then the memories started flowing back, “said Steiner. “For my part, it was all positive.”
Steiner encourages young men to talk to local recruiters to “find out what the possibilities are because “I had no regrets” citing two cousins that made a career out of their military service, one who was a head pilot for the Thunderbirds.
Steiner met his wife just after he got out of the Air Force in the fall of 1957; together they raised a family of two daughters and one son.
The opportunity to participate in the Honor Flight program “brings back memories,” said Steiner, “It’s bringing everything back to me. You know, you just kind of go through that military service and go on with your life.”
Article courtesy Hope Sanders – student reporter