(Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story appeared in 2012, when 1949 Tunkhannock High School classmates Glenn Shupp, Earle Ayers and Carl Gable shared their remembrances of time in the service in Korea. Gable died in April of this year. We once again pick up on the memories shared by Shupp and Ayers this past Saturday.)
Each year on November 11, Americans remember the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces with the celebration of Veterans’ Day.
Sixty-six years ago, practically to the day, 16 men from Wyoming County left from the courthouse in Tunkhannock to begin their service in the U.S. Army.
The fellows included Joe Fassett of Mehoopany; John Hettes of Noxen; Clyde Singer of Dalton; Douglas Dixon and Thomas A. Thomas, both of Factoryville; Raymond Herron and Wallace L. Reeves, both of Falls; John Sickler and Harold Pilger, both of Harveys Lake; and the following from Tunkhannock: Earle R. Ayers, Glenn H. Brungess, Lewis B. Sick, Carl Gable, Glenn Shupp, Leland Shupp, and Donald O. Sick.
A few days later 20 more Wyoming County men were to report for pre-induction examinations: William J. DeAngelo of Centermoreland; Eugene Dziak and Stephen Franko, both of Falls; Charles Wilkie Jr. of Noxen; Joseph Albert Keim and Russell Jacques of Mill City; Robert Stage of lake Winola; Carlton Repsher of Skinners Eddy; Edward Pensak and Lewis Rogers, both of Factoryville; Theodore Storti, Milo Farnham and George Walker Jr., all of Nicholson; Gerald Woodruff of Laceyville; Thomas Wyda and Glenn Denmon, both of Harveys Lake; Vincent Bitscheller of Clarks Summit; James Gruver of Meshoppen; and Kenneth Howell, Glenn Shiffer and Carl Greenley, all of Tunkhannock.
They were just two batches of several hundred men with roots in Wyoming County who were drafted and many of them expected to see service in Korea from June 25, 1950, when South Korea was invaded until July 27, 1953, when an armistice was signed preserving the northern border it had known since the end of World War II.
U.S. troops have remained in Korea ever since.
On Saturday, Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, recognized those from her legislative district who were furnished service medals from the Republic of Korea.)
“We were all drafted,” said Glenn ‘Ace’ Shupp of Tunkhannock. “I got a letter on October 1. It was the day after my 21st birthday. (The letter) said to report to Wilkes-Barre to take a physical.”
“I didn’t care at all about getting drafted,” Earle Ayers said of receiving his draft notification. “I wasn’t scared or worried about anything. I knew my family was concerned but when you’re a young guy, I guess you don’t get scared.”
After graduation from high school, neither Shupp nor Ayers gave much thought to the military, but rather entered the work force in order to make a living.
Shupp had a job hauling eggs into Lancaster several days a week, and Ayers began working in construction.
All that changed in 1952 when the then-young men were called to duty. They reported to the courthouse on the morning of Nov. 12 to begin their enlistments.
None of the men remember anything particularly special happening that day.
“There was no yelling or hollering or any of that kind of stuff going on,” Shupp said. “I don’t think there was even anybody from the Army there. We were in our regular clothes. We just got on the bus and left.”
The bus took the newest batch of soldiers to Wilkes-Barre.
From there they loaded a train to Fort Meade, Md., to begin their in-processing.
“I don’t know what it was but I didn’t have a good feeling at Fort Meade,” Ayers admitted. “I was concerned. Maybe the reality of what we were there for was starting to sink in.”
After spending several days in Fort Meade taking tests to determine how their talents would best serve the Army- “It was like trying to get accepted to college,” Shupp said with a laugh.
The two of them did their basic training at Fort. Breckenridge, Ky., before being assigned to D Company Heavy Weapons 7th Infantry Division.
“We were really lucky to be able to stay together,” Shupp said. “One time we had a three-day pass and a group of us from Scranton took a plane to Avoca.”
“I thought I was going to freeze to death on that plane,” Ayers interjected.
“The weather was bad so we were a day late getting back,” Shipp continued. “There were 26 of us who were AWOL.
“We had to clean the latrine for two weeks,” Shupp said, howling with laughter.
The two friends were sent with their unit to Korea in April of 1953 and served there for one year.
“We were outside a lot and we ate cold cereal almost every day,” Ayers remembered. “We were lucky, though. We were in a heavy weapons unit so we didn’t have to go on patrols.”
Each of the men served in the Army for two years before receiving their discharge papers. While they are proud of their service and feel lucky for the opportunities they received, they all agree that they were excited to come home and begin the next chapter of their lives.
“The military taught me a lot but I didn’t want to stay,” Shupp said. “It’s a nice experience to have once it’s over.”
Each of the men jumped right back into civilian life.
Ayers went to chiropractic school in Indianapolis after his discharge. He worked in Wilkes-Barre before setting up his own office in Mehoopany.
Shupp resumed the driving job he had before he went into the Army. A fall from his roof in 1968 forced him into early retirement, but he continues to serve his community as Tunkhannock Township supervisor.
Looking around the breakfast held Saturday at Misericordia University to honor the Korean veterans who served more than 60 years ago, Shupp quipped, “I guess we’re just lucky to still be here.”
(Former Examiner writer Patrick Leonard also contributed to this story.)