Veterans Frank Case, Richard Pudenz, Bob Gregory, Les Butler and Ed Rohner stand in front of the Veterans Memorial located in Carroll. The group is supporting an effort to raise funds to send local veterans on honor flights to view the memorials in Washington, D.C.
Veterans Frank Case, Richard Pudenz, Bob Gregory, Les Butler and Ed Rohner stand in front of the Veterans Memorial located in Carroll. The group is supporting an effort to raise funds to send local veterans on honor flights to view the memorials in Washington, D.C.
May 16, 2014

"You guys fight wars in the damndest places," said Les Butler, voicing aloud an often recurring thought regarding military superiors.

Butler served in two wars during his 23 years in the U.S. Air Force - and Vietnam was as hot as Korea was cold, he said.

"Korea is the coldest damn place on Earth," the Carroll native said.

"The wet socks - remember the wet socks?" asked Bob Gregory, a Glidden native who also served in the Korean War.

Butler and Gregory met for the first time Tuesday afternoon - two of the 12 Carroll County veterans who have applied for an Honor Flight, a tour designed to fly veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials constructed as reminders of and monuments to the wars they fought.

Gregory's close friend, Richard Pudenz of Mount Carmel, and Frank Case of Carroll, are also on the waiting list for an honor flight - but none of the Carroll County veterans will be able to fly until money is raised by Carroll County residents, businesses and organizations, said Stacey Kasperbauer.

Last fall, her father, Pudenz, told her he wanted to go on an honor flight. But Kasperbauer discovered that Carroll County had never raised funds for the flights - and it is the only of its neighbors not to do so, she added.

The popularity of the honor flights - organized for the west-central Iowa region by the Brushy Creek Honor Flight organization in Fort Dodge - has spread thorough word-of-mouth recommendations from fellow veterans, the men said.

"My brother went two years ago, and he is still talking about it," Case said.

"It's a final chapter in our career, in our military service," Gregory agreed.

Gregory and Pudenz left for the war together in October 1952, with nine other drafted soldiers from the region. They lost one - Glenn Wenck of Lidderdale, caught by a mortar round 19 days after landing in Korea.

"We went over by boat, and came back by boat," Gregory said.

Pudenz still takes a beer to the cemetery for Wenck every Memorial Day, said his daughter Jane Pottebaum.

Butler traveled by air, assuming a job in munitions upon arrival in both wars.

"I didn't get much into combat," he said. "I carried bombs into the hills so Charlie (North Vietnamese) couldn't find them."

In Vietnam, men carried their tools in buckets of water, he said - they were too hot to touch otherwise.

He laughed as he recalled the day the posts to connect his camp to electric lighting were sawed off at the ground and carried away over the rice paddies within hours of being set in cement by the Army's civil engineers.

He also recalled a barber in Korea, set up in a tent with a heater blasting the enclosed space to the temperatures of a sauna. The smell of his kimchi meals was so strong, he had to wear a plastic deflector over his mouth to send his breath away from the G.I.s while he worked on their hair.

Duties were a roll of the dice, Gregory said. He could have been sent to an infantry unit, but instead he was sent to engineering school to learn demolition, but he never used the skills.

"Everything was all bombed out," he recalled. "Seoul - they fought through that five times."

He did get to act as chauffeur to Marilyn Monroe on one of her USO tours, though.

Gregory and Pudenz returned to the country in 1994, guests of the Korean government. Both were struck by the thanks they received from the South Korean citizens, Gregory said.

"The country is beautiful now," Pudenz agreed.

Korea has more memorials to that war than the U.S. does.

"It's almost the forgotten war," mused Pottebaum. "You hear a lot about WWI and WWII, but not Korea."

But she and Kasperbauer hope to change that. Their goal is to raise $15,000 for the Carroll County veterans honor flight fund, so veterans don't have to wait once they apply. The cost for each veteran is $600 per trip.

The next two flights will be held this September and next May. The Breda American Legion Post will act as the sponsoring service organization for the first year - a duty that will be rotated among all five Carroll County American Legion posts, said 8th District Commander Ed Rohner.

So far, Kasperbauer has raised about $1,100. She hopes to increase that total substantially by serving at least 1,000 people at a pancake breakfast at the Mount Carmel Parish Center on Sunday, June 1, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Carroll Countians can also send donations to Brushy Creek Honor Flight Fund, Attn: Jane Pottebaum, P.O. Box 702, Carroll, Iowa 51401. Checks should be made out to Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight with "Carroll County Veterans" written in the memo line.

Rohner, a Vietnam veteran who recalled his own first trip to the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., said that the men will be "impacted."

"It was so emotional - I couldn't have made the walk by myself. That's why you don't go alone," he said. "The mission won't be over."

The men will continue to do something to remember the war - and to make sure the next generation also doesn't forget.

"Let's not start another damn war," Butler said. "We're too tired to fight these damn things."