Korean War vet ‘honored’ to go on Freedom Honor Flight

About 90 veterans travel to Washington D.C. Saturday

About 90 local veterans will take off from La Crosse Airport Saturday morning to spend the day in Washington, D.C., with the Freedom Honor Flight.

This will be the 17th trip the local chapter has taken since it began in 2008.

It’s known as the forgotten war to some, but for the millions of Korean War veterans, the three-year battle is something they’ll never forget.

On Friday afternoon, volunteers were already setting up the hangar to once again welcome home the veterans going on Saturday’s Freedom Honor Flight.

“When we take these veterans, they’re the most important people running around D.C. tomorrow,” La Crosse Freedom Honor Flight board of director’s member Mike Weissenberger said.

One of those making the trip is Korean War veteran Marine Corp. Kenneth Appleman who was 22 when he was drafted and sent on a 13-day boat ride to Korea.

“Well you often wonder where you’re going to go, where you’re going to end up, just like when you’re over in Korea, you don’t know if you’re coming back or not,” Appleman said.

As one of four boys in his family, Appleman was the only one drafted, and admits he was not excited about it.

“I didn’t care for Eisenhower, but when he got to be president, he stopped that Korean War, and I was so glad for that,” Appleman said.

Appleman was in Korea for a total of 11 months, but only four months before a truce was signed. Even in that short amount of time, however, as a gunner, he saw plenty of combat.

“But just lucky it wasn’t that bad, we (had) a few shells (that) came in, but they lit in front of us or clear over us,” Appleman said.

Appleman was hesitant, at first, to go on the Freedom Honor Flight. He said even though he didn’t exactly enjoy his time in Korea, he is looking forward to seeing the memorial standing in honor of him and those he served alongside.

“I think it’s quite a great honor that I get to go,” Appleman said.

Appleman left the Marines after two years of service. He was put on the list to go on the Freedom Honor Flight by his granddaughter, who is also a veteran. She will be the one joining him on the trip to D.C. Saturday.

Saturday’s honor flight is being called the “Sparta American Legion Post 100 Flight” because of the support that post and the Sparta community has provided to the Freedom Honor Flight over the past several years. Sparta Post 100 has donated more than $150,000, paying for about 300 veterans to go on this trip.