MENOMONEE FALLS - The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will recognize the heroism of 25 Waukesha County veterans on its 38th mission Saturday, April 8.
Walt Stumpf and Jack Koehn, Korean War Army veterans and Menomonee Falls residents, are both being escorted by their daughters.
Stumpf was a Morse code interceptor and dealt with communications between Korea and China.
"I copied the five-digit groupings on a typewriter, and I could copy 25 words a minute," Stumpf said. "We would give those messages to the cryptanalyst that was in the next room of our operations building. We operated three rotating shifts eight hours a day. That was my exciting military experience. Even today — and that was ’53 when I learned the Morse code — I can still recite the Morse code faster than you can recite the alphabet; it just stays with you forever.”
He enlisted in the U.S. Army Security Agency in September 1952, near the end of the Korean War.
"I never did see any combat in Korea; I spent eight weeks in basic training in Kansas and then eight months special training in Fort Evans, Massachusetts," Stumpf said. "In August of 1973, I went over and spent the full last two years of my service on the island of Okinawa and so I was in a non-combat organization. I was very fortunate compared to a lot of veterans who were in that same era. I’m grateful for that."
Stumpf's daughter, an army veteran herself from Portland, Oregon, spent more than five years in the Army Nurse Corps. She will fly into Wisconsin on Friday and will be his guardian on the trip to Washington.
Stumpf's Honor Flight experience is an early birthday present, as he is turning 84 on May 1.
“I’m just looking forward to the total Honor Flight experience," Stumpf said. “I’m most excited to see the Korean Memorial. I’ve heard from different people that is the one they really like the best. I’m really looking forward to the whole day.”
Koehn, age 88, served from 1951-53 in Korea as part of the Army's Military Police.
“Well, most of the time, we tried to stay alive, but we also directed traffic, and I was in the motor pool so I had to go and pick up our vehicles when they were damaged one way or another; a few battles in between," Koehn said. "We were about 2 miles off the line, the 38th parallel.”
Even though he has been to Washington several times, he's looking forward to the time he will spend with his daughter, Julie, on the trip, whose idea it was to participate in Honor Flight, and with his peer veterans.
Richard Michels, Vietnam veteran from Menomonee Falls, and Bill Leissring, Korean War veteran of Butler, will also attend the Honor Flight on April 8.
Since Honor Flight's founding in 2008, it has flown 4,818 local veterans on these trips of honor. Other scheduled flights for 2017 will take place on Sunday, May 21, Friday, June 9, Saturday, Sept. 16, Saturday, Oct. 14, and Saturday, Nov. 4.
Honor Flight is an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff and no offices.