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KING, John R., Korean War Veteran


Posted By: Sharon R Becker (email)
Date: 11/23/2016 at 15:51:35

The Globe-Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
November 30, 2011

Korean War vet gets his medals
by John Skipper

MASON CITY - Retired Mason City High School history teacher John R. King has both memories and medals from serving in the Korean conflict. The memories he’s had most of his adult life. The medals came last week, nearly 60 years after he served in Korea.

King, 81, received a combat medal with a battle star, a United Nations service medal and a combat medical badge. He admits the long delay was partly his fault. He should have received the medals promptly from the Army but didn’t.

“They have what they call a DD214 form that is supposed to have up-to-date information on every serviceman, including the medals he should receive,” he said.

King never got his medals and, as years went by, didn’t think about it much.

Then, a few years ago, he contacted Rosetta Waychus in the Cerro Gordo County Veterans Affairs Office about some other matters.

“Through her help I was able to get extra pension money I was entitled to and she also led me to the right people to help with a medical problem,” he said.

Earlier this year it dawned on him that she might be able to help him get his medals.

“She did the paperwork in April and I got them on Nov. 18,” said King.

He served 10 months in Korea, returning to the States in November 1952. He taught for five years in Parkersburg before coming to Mason City in 1964. He retired in 1989.

When King recalls his days in Korea, some memories make him laugh, others bring him to the brink of tears. He said he received Army engineer training in Colorado when he received orders to go to Korea in July of 1951.

“I went to Korea to replace reservists. They needed bodies and I was a body,” said King.

He said he did what he was told without asking questions.

“In the Army, they say, ‘Get on the truck. You’ll find out why when you get there,’” said King.

When he arrived at his next destination, he learned he would be trained to be a medic.

“My training in the states was to be an engineer but in the Army, like I said, they need bodies and they needed a medic. So I was a medic.

“My training consisted of learning how to give shots. For training, we gave distilled water shots. The guy who was supposed to give me mine, his hand was shaking so much I finally grabbed the needle from him and jabbed myself. Then I gave him his shot. That was my training as a medic,” said King.

In the next 10 months he was in one major battle and several other skirmishes. As the time approached for his discharge, he went to officers responsible for the paperwork and told them he was due to be out the following week.

“You are?” they asked.

It was at that point they started his paperwork, said King.

“When you’re in the military, you have to tell them or it won’t get done.”

Not all of his experiences were laughable.

“When I was in Korea, my 2-month-old son died. I didn’t know it for two weeks because they couldn’t find me. I was in battle. It was kind of a Private Ryan type of thing,” he said.

When he got out of the service, he said he knew he wasn’t feeling right but couldn’t figure out what his problem was.

He said Waychus at the Veterans Affairs Office directed him to see medical personnel at a Veterans Administration Clinic.

“I found out I was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. A lot of people associate that with the Vietnam War. I had it for 60 years and never knew it,” said King.

He shook his head and said he preferred not to talk about it except to say for years he had recurring nightmares “about things a 20-year-old should never experience.”

Now he has his medals.

“I want to dedicate these awards to all the Korean War combat veterans who received little praise, honor and recognition for their valor and sacrifices for our country 60 years ago,” he said.

Photograph courtesy of Globe-Gazette
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2016


Cerro Gordo Biographies maintained by Sharon R. Becker.
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