Korean War Veteran Sees Memorial That Stands in His Honor
Freedom Honor Flight takes veterans to Washington, D.C.
COON VALLEY, Wis. (WKBT) — Reuben Starch, 85, has called a small farm just outside of Coon Valley home for 85 years.
“I was born right here,” said Starch. “This is my own farm.”
He and his wife of 51 years built their home on this land and continued the Starch family business.
“Years ago we raised cattle,” said Starch. “We don’t have them anymore. We raised cattle until about 2000. We sold our cattle and we retired.”
But even in retirement, Reuben continues to work his farm.
“I love driving tractors,” said Starch.
It’s a passion that started years ago.
But while his love of driving powerful machinery started on tractors, he was called to get behind the wheel of something new.
“We thought it was kind of a shock to leave the farm,” said Starch.
But that is what he was driven to do after being drafted into the Korean War in 1952.
“Most of my friends, instead of going to the service, they looked for other higher farms where they could get deferred,” said Starch. “But I vowed to my parents I would never do that. I said I would sooner go to the Army than go and work for the other farms. So, that’s what happened.”
At the age of 19, Starch served as a member of the 72nd Tank Battalion.
“I was in the armored division,” said Starch. “I drove a tank in the army.”
He recalled his war-time experience in great detail, beginning with the stormy voyage on the U.S.S. Randall to Korea.
“The water starts coming over the ship, and we all had to stay inside because we would have got washed off the deck,” said Starch.
Starch remembers being loaded into army trucks when they reached Inchon, Korea, and taken to a rail station where soldiers were dropped off at camps along the route.
“They unloaded us and we went to a camp,” said Starch. “They fed us real good and everything, and I knew what was coming..
“that evening the lieutenant came in and said, ‘Enjoy yourself. We’re going on patrol tonight.'”
“So we went out to …the tanks were all sitting outside where we were in there, and we moved up into the line and dug ourselves into positions.
“We stayed up there quite a few days, and then they took us back to the same camp.
“So it went on for quite a while like that,” said Starch.
Starch’s battalion endured enemy fire and casualties, but those memories didn’t make the trip back to the United States.
“I like to leave some of that in Korea,” said Starch.
It has been 61 years since Starch was honorably discharged from the service with honors, such as the National Defense Service Medal.
And for the first time since basic training, Starch got back on an airplane. However, this time he headed to Washington, D.C., on the Freedom Honor Flight.
“It’s going to bring back memories, I think,” said Starch. “A lot of memories.”
After a safe flight, Starch was finally just footsteps away from seeing the memorial created in honor of his time at war. And he shared the experience with his only granddaughter, Crystal.
Crystal put her grandfather on the waiting list for the Freedom Honor Flight three years ago. The wait for this shared experience is now over.
“This is the real thing here,” said Starch. “Much better than what we see on paper.”
Better, indeed, as he was given the opportunity to stand among the 19 stainless-steel statues created to commemorate his time at war.
And upon returning from this flight, he was given a hero’s welcome.
“Her and I saw the best things in the world,” said Starch.
Today, Starch is back on his farm.
“He likes driving the tractor, which he still does,” said Reuben’s wife, Mary Louise. “You can’t keep him in the house.”
Maybe that’s because he knows freedom isn’t free.
“It’s something you never forget,” said Starch.