“I think I shipped out around February, January or February of ‘53 by boat to Japan, from Japan onto Korea,” remembers George McKissick, a Korean War veteran.
McKissick knows firsthand what Memorial Day means to America. After completing only 2 years of college, at the age of 22, he joined the army. Soon after, he shipped out to Korea.
“It was like being in a rural farm with mountains all around you and no facilities like we have today. Looking at the city of Pusan when I was there, compared to today, it’s kind of unbelievable. Dirt roads, nothing paved and garbagey,” said McKissick.
In just seven months in combat, McKissick grew from young man to leader.
“When I got there the big push was kind of over. I started as a platoon leader and through the various jobs I ended up as a company commander. It aged me a little bit. I guess you’d call it street smart, from being a young college kid in there- just maturity maybe. Although some people think I’m not mature yet. I guess I had more knowledge about what was going on than I did before,” said McKissick.
After the war, McKissick finished college at Valparaiso where he met his wife Barbara. George doesn’t share many stories of his service with his kids or grandkids, but has the best wishes for those serving today.
“They’re being well trained and well taken care of. I think after this they’re going to be better citizens, once they get out of the service. It’s a wonderful opportunity. The education is there now- it wasn’t for us. When we docked in California, there was maybe a van and that was it. We got on a train and came home. There’s no hurrah that we do today for the guys,” said McKissick.
Through the years Memorial Day has grown more and more important to him and his family.
“I get really excited about it, sentimental about it a little. And I grew up where Memorial Day all you did was go to the cemetery and put a flower on grandma’s grave. The veterans and the people of Naperville really help our cause and it’s a little emotional here.”
Every year McKissick remembers his buddies as he marches in the Memorial Day parade in Naperville. This year, he was chosen to serve as Parade Marshall, in honor of his years of service to his country and his community.
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