Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We Energies employee and father to embark on Honor Flight

“I never expected to be doing anything like this,” said Ronald Drenzek, a Korean War Veteran and father of We Energies employees Bob and Dan Drenzek.

Ronald and his wife, Barb, read honor flight Christmas card
Ronald Drenzek’s family gave him a Christmas card with the news that they had applied to send Ronald on an Honor Flight. Recently, he learned he would be on the Sept. 12 “Operation Parallel” Stars and Stripes Honor Flight sponsored by We Energies. His son, Bob, will accompany him on the flight.

Bob added, “I’m excited. This has been a long time coming. My dad deserves this honor.”

Ronald enlisted in the Army in 1950, at the age of 20. He felt it was the right thing to do.

“It was right after World War II. If they needed soldiers, you just joined up, “ said Ronald.

Ronald was part of the 114th Combat Engineers based out of Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. After basic training, he left for Korea, where he spent his time rebuilding the main road out of Puson. The road was made of gravel. The weather was harsh, so some days were spent towing trucks out of the mud, just to keep the traffic moving.

“We also had to disable mines, booby traps and ‘jumping jacks’ before someone could run into them and it detonated,” said Ronald. “Jumping Jacks” are M16 mines that can launch 4 feet into the air and then detonate.

After four months working on the roads in Korea, Ronald was pulled out and sent to Japan for a special job.

“The Army found out I had a background in printing, so they sent me to Camp Sendai in Japan,” said Ronald.

In a time before computers and printers, Ronald supported the troops by converting old military maps into English and printing them off for the troops. He was quickly put in charge of the Japanese printing plant. The plant also served as a major supply storage area for the troops.

“We would get anything from toilet paper to soap, and then we would send it off to the troops still in Korea,” said Ronald.

While in Japan, Ronald says most of the men in the unit he left behind in Korea were killed after Gen. Douglas MacArthur made a controversial military move in the winter of 1951 that led to the Chinese intervening in the war.

“A lot of my friends didn’t make it home. Almost all of them were M.I.A. after the Chinese entered the battle. It’s hard to talk about it,” said Ronald.

President Truman later fired MacArthur.

A few of Ronald’s friends from the war did survive, and he visited them and sent Christmas cards back and forth for many years after Korea.

Bob says that the visits and the cards were all he knew about his father’s time in the Korean War.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with my dad. This part of his life is a mystery to me,” said Bob.

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will fly its 29th mission on Saturday, Sept. 12. The We Energies-sponsored flight will take local WWII and Korean War veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a free, one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials.

"We’re excited to be flying so many local WWII and Korean War heroes at one time, on a 747,” said Paula Nelson, president of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “We will continue to give priority to our WWII veterans but are so pleased to welcome such a large number of Korean War veterans. Thanks to all the fabulous support we have received from the community and our loyal sponsors such as We Energies, we are able to raise the funds to keep flying veterans and reduce our waiting lists."

Before boarding the flight to D.C., veterans will enjoy entertainment and the National Anthem performed by local singing group the “Radio Rosies.” The Kettle Moraine High School Band and Arrowhead High School Hawkettes dance team will provide entertainment and spirit for the evening’s homecoming celebration.

We Energies employees wrote more than 500 letters of thanks to the veterans who will fly on Saturday. These letters will be included in the flight’s “mail call,” which will be distributed on the trip home to Milwaukee at the end of the day.

“Today, through the prism of history, we understand much better the magnitude of the sacrifice and the valor of the men and women 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 Sept. 12 flight.”


Unknown said...

I am proud that the company I worked for for 42+ years sponsored a HONOR FLIGHT. Thank you WEC��

Unknown said...

I am proud that the company I worked for for 42+ years sponsored a HONOR FLIGHT. THANKS WEC.