A Soldier's welcome
Korean War veteran finally receives his parade, recognition
Wednesday, October 08, 2014 11:00 AM
Robert Everhart didn't really mind the idea of serving his country on either land, in the air or on the seas - but he had his preference.
MEMORIES OF SERVICE: Everhart shared memories about his 10-month deployment to Korea in the 1950s. After receiving shrapnel wounds from enemy fire, the Purple Heart recipient returned to the front lines before he received his discharge from the Army in 1953 and returned home. (Staff photo by David Hill)
Everhart, who was raised in the Dupont area, wasn't one to get sick on plane rides or while on a boat or ship. Still, he liked the idea of being in the air while the enemy was on the ground.
He and long-time friend Gene Spicer knew they could either volunteer for a branch of the military or they would eventually be placed in one of the branches with the war in Korea looming in the 1950s.
"We knew we were going to get drafted if we didn't go," Everhart said.
The two friends joined the Army in 1950 and went to Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky for 14 weeks of basic training with the 101st Airborne Division. But the airborne division wasn't exactly what Everhart had in mind when he joined.
He never really had any desire to jump out of a perfectly good plane.
"I wanted to fly airplanes," Everhart said. "I didn't really get into what I wanted to do."
Yet before the group of new recruits ever completed their first jump, Everhart found himself on a plane to California in February 1951 with the 30th Infantry.
Everhart boarded a ship in California that took him and others under the Golden Gate Bridge before heading to the war zone in Korea.
With a 44-pound pack on his shoulders, he and other troops navigated the rugged landscape on the Korean peninsula.
"We did a lot of walking," he said. "We didn't stay in just one place."
Yet one of those journeys didn't end well for Everhart and the troops he was with.
While moving over a mountain, the troops found the an enemy group on the other side.
Everhart did like others around him and held ground the best he could.
Because of the angle of the mountain, guns weren't very effective against the enemy.
"I had six grenades," Everhart said, "but I had already thrown them."
Then Everhart heard something land nearby. He only had time to flip over and away from a grenade before it exploded.
Everhart was able to use his left arm to cover his head. He still has a scar on his arm from the shrapnel.
"If it hadn't been my arm, it would have been my head," he said.
At first, the shrapnel injuries on his arm seemed to the be only issue. Then he tried to stand up when a medic came to help care for his wounds. Everhart recalled that he immediately fell down again.
"I had metal all through my left side," he said.
Still, Everhart made himself move to where medical services were located at the base of the mountain while the medic moved on to treat other wounded soldiers.
"I walked down off that mountain all by myself," Everhart said.
Everhart considers himself lucky that he didn't find any enemies on the way down. The attack had happened at night and no one really knew who or what might be waiting elsewhere on the mountainside.
Everhart recovered from his wounds before medical personnel released him to return to active duty.
"When they told me I could go back, I went back to the 3rd Division," Everhart said - right to the war forefront.
Eventually, a letter for Everhart arrived after 10 months in the war zone. He had been discharged and could go home to the United States.
Yet no pomp or circumstance welcomed him and other soldiers home to California.
"I was disappointed," the 82-year-old recalled. "There wasn't any parade."
Instead, Everhart returned home to a job he'd had in Beach Grove before enlisting in the Army and transitioned back to life as a civilian.
But last Saturday, the American Legion, family and friends surprised Everhart by honoring him for his service with the pomp and circumstance he had missed all those years ago. He rode in the first Army vehicle in the Carroll County Tobacco Festival parade and was honored during a ceremony with a flag and medal marking the anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.
It was one of the first times the Carrollton resident had been recognized for his service in the 61 years since his discharge from Army.
"It was one of those things that blew me away," he said.