Story of the Month – February 2015

What My Grandfather’s Korean War Experience Means to Me

Carl Wheeler ThenMy grandfather Carl Wheeler was a soldier who fought in the Korean War, and his service has helped shape my future goals in wanting to join the military and serve my country. He fought in the subzero conditions of Korea while under enemy fire to protect our nation. 

On September 28, 1949 my grandfather volunteered to join the army at the age of 17.  He was going to school and worked at a tomato cannery in Virginia.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for Basic Training and then went to Washington State where he continued to Japan and then to Korea. Korea was a hostile battle field, soldiers had to deal with temperatures below 0 and enemy fire.  When he arrived in Korea he was assigned to the Headquarters Battery 865th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, and was a gunner on a half-track vehicle.  As part of the airbase defense forces, his job was to protect military bases from enemy aircraft such as Soviet MIG 15s.  The cold weather of Korea made things worse by making it harder to see aircraft.  He told us a story where they were shooting at an aircraft, but it was actually an American aircraft.  They thought that it was the enemy because all American aircraft were told not to land at that airbase with the poor visibility and snowy conditions.  My grandfather was hospitalized four times during the war.  He had pneumonia twice, he hurt his leg once and the last time he went to the hospital because he burned his hand after he passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning trying to stay warm in an old vehicle.

My grandfather Carl risked his life by protecting our nation from communists and threats overseas, and trying to help future Korean generations live in a land where they have the power to choose what they want.  My grandfather and many others had to work under extremely hazardous conditions to keep the people of this country safe.  The incredible thing is no one made him do this; he volunteered his time, energy and 3 years of his life at such a young age.  So yes, I think that we owe them our lives and freedom for their sacrifices.

My father joined the United States Air Force after high school because of my grandfather’s Korean War experience, which in-turn led to the career plan I have today.  When I was young my family lived on an Air Force Base in Georgia where I became fascinated with aircraft.  I plan on studying Aeronautical Engineering and then joining the Air Force to further educate myself in aeronautics.  The Air Force would be a great opportunity because I would be able to work on and develop new technology that could help defend our nation.  Hopefully this will inspire others to think of new kinds of technology that will help keep people safe and improve our lives.

If my grandfather never joined the military and fought in the war, then my father wouldn’t have joined the Air Force and served his country for twenty-four years.  I wouldn’t have been provided an opportunity to have a close up and in-depth look at our military’s aircraft which made me want to be an engineer.  I wouldn’t even be born if my grandfather didn’t fight in the war because my parents met when my father was deployed.

Standish Wheeler
Thomas Stone High School
Waldorf, MD
          Carl Wheeler (PFC)               Carl Wheeler Now
Me and Grandfather