Friday, September 4, 2015

Reflections of a Korean War veteran in anticipation of Honor Flight

Leon Sniegowski was 20 years old when he was drafted for the Korean War in 1952. He served in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry division, 27th Regiment. This band of brothers was better known as the “Wolfhounds.”

“I prefer to remember the good times; the hard times I try to forget,” said Sniegowski. “I was shot at with artillery and had many close calls. I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it.”

Leon’s son, Ted, an employee at Port Washington Generating Station, says his dad never said much about his 14 months in Korea.

“He didn’t talk much about it, just about the weather and harsh conditions; he never talked about the fighting. He did tell me he would never eat lima beans again. ”

Leon and his fellow Korean War soldiers subsisted on C-rations from World War II. The main meal of the C-rations was beanies and weenies, which consisted of frankfurter chunks in tomato sauce. Sometimes, it was ham and lima beans – not to his liking.

Leon Sniegowski cooking his C-ration lunch.
“Our meals consisted of stale crackers, a chocolate bar and a main meal. We would use our knife to make slits in the can, use napalm that we would light with a match so we could eat it warm. However, it tasted better cold … well, it didn’t taste good at all,” he said. 

Leon, now 83 years old, received the call a few weeks ago that he was selected for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. The flight is the first of a group of flights and fundraising efforts dubbed “Operation Parallel,” a nod to the fact that the Korean War was fought over the 38th parallel. The flight is sponsored by We Energies.

Leon asked his son if he thought he should go on the flight. The humble veteran thought there were guys more deserving than him – a common response from many veterans contacted for the flight.

“We do hear often that our veterans feel that there is someone more deserving that should go on the flights. Every contribution has led us to where we are today; every contribution is important. It’s important that we thank them for it,” said Karyn Roelke with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.

The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight begins early, with a 5 a.m. check-in at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport for the approximately 180 Korean War and WWII veterans and their guardians. Once in Washington, D.C., they board coach buses and tour the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Marine Corps/Iwo Jima Memorial and more. The day often ends with the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery before making the flight home.

“Today, through the prism of history, we understand much better the magnitude of the sacrifice and the valor of the men and women such as Leon who fought fearlessly for our freedom,” said Gale Klappa, We Energies chairman and chief executive officer. “Our company has long supported the Stars and Stripes program, and we are proud to sponsor the September 12 flight.”

Learn more about Stars and Stripes Honor Flight at

1 comment:

chen said...

My father-in-law was a lifelong Wisconsin Electric employee, who retired after many years of climbing poles. Like Leon, he was also a Korean War vet. In the war he was a demolitions expert, so it gave him good experience to come back to work for WE in a challenging (and sometimes dangerous) position, as a lineman.

He took part in the June Honor Flight, and came back overwhelmed with emotion - honor, pride, humility, gratitude, and love.

I encourage everyone to experience an Honor Flight homecoming at least once. I promise you will come back from it a changed person.

Semper fi, and a resounding "Thank you for your service," to my father in law and retired WE lineman Bob Herrmann, and to all who have served.