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May 20, 2023 Honor Flight: Army veterans John and Gloria Hahn of West Bend, WI

Washington County, WI – On Saturday, May 20, 2023, John Hahn, 87, and Gloria Hahn, 82, both Army veterans from West Bend, WI, will be joining 13 other Washington County vets on the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

John Hahn, born in Iron Ridge, WI, enlisted in the US Army at the age of 21. That’s because his mother would not allow his father to give permission for him to join at the age of 16 when he had a passion to serve during the Korean War. When his job came to an abrupt end because of a layoff he made the decision to enlist in the Army.

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“During Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, the Commanding Officer (CO) called for a company meeting, “Everyone out in formation. I need 26 fellas. If nobody volunteers, we’ll pick”,” John said.

Everyone was wondering if they were in trouble, so nobody volunteered. John’s name came up first along with 25 other randomly selected soldiers. The group was sent to the main motor pool to take a driver’s test.

Those that passed, they learned, would become drivers on the base. Out of the 26 soldiers, only 6 passed the test, including John. “I drove truck all the time after that. No KP, no guard duty for me,” he said.

John was sent to France and drove a semi at Chateauroux Air Depot where he spent 19 months. He was extended one month because of the Lebanon crisis and hauled ammunition that was sent to Lebanon.

John continued on to Ft. Chaffee, AK where he remained in his position as a driver. One blustery winter day during a particularly heavy snowstorm the CO called him, “John, you’re from WI. The weather can change five times a day there. We got a full bird colonel on the post that has to get to Ft. Smith airport in Arkansas,” John said.

Obviously singled out for his Wisconsin winter driving experience, John quickly accepted the request and got on the road. After picking up the colonel the weather worsened. “The colonel told me to turn the vehicle around. I told him to sit back and relax. There were 8-10 inches of snow on the ground with no snowplows in the state of Arkansas.”

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The colonel was so impressed with John’s driving skills he said, “Soldier, I want you to be my personal driver, but you have to make up your mind between here and the hanger.”

John pondered the request from the end of the airport driveway all the way to the hanger and turned him down. He was very close to discharge and accepting the position would mean he would have to extend his service contract which he was not interested in doing.

 

 

 

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John Hahn and Gloria Fechter met when one of Gloria’s brothers, also in the Army, brought John home while on furlough because he had learned that John knew how to play Sheepshead. “We started dating after that. I was 17,” Gloria said.

“I did not have a high school education as I was the youngest of 13 children in our family and had to spend most of my time working the farm,” said Gloria, who was born in Newburg, WI. She is quick to point out that after discharged from the service she obtained her GED through Moraine Park Technical College after which she worked for the West Bend School District lunch program. “Better late than never,” she said.

 

 

 

“I made the decision to serve my country somehow and enlisted when I was 18. I went to basic training at Ft. McClellan, AL. I was sent to clerical school there as well then went on to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma’s artillery missile school, and worked there for two years and seven months,” Gloria said.

“At Ft Sill, I had an office in a building called Snow Hall and there I did office work. I was in charge of all the officers that went to school there and helped with grading. I was offered another stripe, E5, if I’d reenlist. But women were being sent overseas and I didn’t want to go overseas. I didn’t know if I’d like it or not. I loved Ft. Sill,” said Gloria.

John and Gloria continued to correspond via written letters throughout their terms of service not knowing what the future would hold.

Gloria said, “While I was still at Ft. Sill, John was called back into service during the Cuban crisis and was originally sent to Ft. Chaffee.” In order to get a glimpse of Gloria, John volunteered to drive linens from Ft. Chaffee to Ft. Sill.

“I was recalled on my birthday,” said John, “I was at Ft. Chaffee for 8-9 months. We lived in tents on slabs from WWII. There were prisoners living there as well.”

Throughout this time, John and Gloria continued to date, eventually marrying after John got out of the service.

John had been working at the Gehl Company in West Bend, WI before he entered the service so he went back to the factory and remained there for 42 years as a spot welder, working on brakes and taking on many other tasks.

 

He took on a second job part-time with Sears Roebuck & Co. delivering appliances and setting things up and he worked both jobs for 20 years, retiring in 2001.

 

In his retirement years, John said, “I tinker around with lawnmowers and other things. I don’t really have any hobbies.” Gloria was quick to chime in, “If something breaks, he tries to fix it.”

Gloria worked briefly for Briggs & Stratton, then spent the ensuing years raising her family and as a caregiver for her aging parents. Once their children grew older, Gloria took on jobs at Amity Leather and West Bend Company. After her parents passed away in 1977, Gloria went full time at Enger Kress for 2.5 years, then worked at United Services Imaging for 7.5 years forklift driving, in the warehouse, dealing with film for x-ray machines. She ended up at Wesbar Corporation in Shipping and Receiving, and stayed 13 years, retiring in 2000.

John and Gloria have one daughter, Beth Oezer, who resides in Waterford, and one son, Edward, who lives in Sussex. Both of their adult children will be accompanying them as chaperones on the upcoming Honor Flight. They have five grandchildren.

Gloria enjoys the outdoors doing yard work, trimming, landscaping, and taking care of their property. They enjoy spending time with their nephews and nieces.

John and Gloria Hahn are two of 15 veterans from Washington County, WI
that are traveling on the May 20 Honor Flight

While 15 veterans from Washington County, WI are on the May 20, 2023 flight, two have asked their names not be published.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is the Milwaukee area hub of the Honor Flight Network.  Founded in 2008, Stars and Stripes Honor Flight has flown more than 7,600 WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a one-day, all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C.

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