May 6, 2019 – Hartford, WI – Korean War veteran Delbert Clay, 87, of Hartford, is heading to Washington D.C. on the May 11 Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
Born in 1931 in Missouri to Mary and Grover, Clay’s family moved to Milwaukee when he was 11 years old, where he lived his entire life, until moving to Hartford three years ago. He attended Riverside High School and graduated in 1949.
At 21 years old, Clay received a note from Uncle Sam. “I was drafted in 1952. It’s a comedian who said, ‘I fought like hell and had to go anyway. You can’t fight the government, you just have to pick up and go,” he said.
Basic Training was in California and while the food was fine, Clay shared a little of what he endured. “It was just a lot of harassment, anything they could do to irritate you,” he said.
After basic training ended, Clay had a 10 day delay-in-route, so he flew home and got married to his high school sweetheart, Audrey. “After that, I went to San Francisco and got shipped out to Korea,” he said.
Clay was assigned to the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division. “We were on the line wherever we went and when the war ended, I was back at NCO working with officers and training the guys that would come in.”
Clay was a corporal when his service ended in 1954. “I got wounded and received a Purple Heart. I also got a Combat Infantry Badge and things like that, but those don’t matter much.”
When Clay came home, he continued working for Cleaver-Brooks. “I just couldn’t sit still anymore so I went to work for an insurance company,” he said.
After retirement, woodworking and golf became Clay’s main hobbies. “ It used to be bowling, but I can’t bowl anymore. I learned woodworking by just fiddling around. I had a brother in law that could build anything so he taught me a lot,” he said.
While Clay’s wife, Audrey, passed away in 2016, he reminisced about their early years. “We went out for a blind date when I was 16 and she was 14. We were attached to the hip for 68 years,” he said.
Clay and his wife had three boys, Daniel, Dennis, and Dean, “My son signed me up for the Honor Flight, but I wasn’t really happy with it at the time. There was a reason for that though. I didn’t want to pick one son over the other (Daniel passed in 2013). My other son, Dean, ended up passing away just a few months ago.
Clay is looking forward to the Honor Flight. “Just to see all the memorials again, the plane camaraderie, and the mail call,” he said.
Clay is looking forward to seeing the Korean Memorial but said he’s impressed by a number of them. “The Vietnam Memorial is sad,” he said. “You see a lot of people are crying and sobbing. Korea wasn’t fun but Vietnam was bad. Those guys came home and were treated like dirt.”
Click HERE to read more about veterans from Washington County on the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight.