Cross Currents

Honor Flight recognizes Korean War vets’ sacrifice

Column by Bill Christopher
Posted 6/20/17

The Korean War began 67 years ago, and many American don't recall the North Koreans fighting the South Koreans.

Nor do they recall the Chinese joining the North Koreans nor American troops joining …

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Cross Currents

Honor Flight recognizes Korean War vets’ sacrifice


The Korean War began 67 years ago, and many American don't recall the North Koreans fighting the South Koreans.

Nor do they recall the Chinese joining the North Koreans nor American troops joining South Korea nor the battle over the 38th Parallel nor President Truman firing General Douglas MacArthur.

It was called the "Forgotten War" for a reason: Many of the veterans who came home from that war felt a lack of support from their fellow Americans. Many did not receive the recognition and appreciation which they deserved.

There is an organization, however, which has stepped up to honor World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans. Honor Flight is a totally privately funded program. Recently, six north metro Denver area Korean War vets were honored by the Northern Honor Flight organization - Dick Anema, Neville Kempkes, Bob Fickes, Leroy Gonzales, Jeffrey Nuce and Frank Shipman. I want to focus on Westminster residents Anema and Kempkes, who are Colorado natives.

Lt. j.G. Dick Anema

Dick Anema was a 1947 Denver South High School graduate. He graduated from CU in January 1953 and joined the Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island in the following month.

From there, he was assigned to the seaplane tender USS Corson and served as the gunnery officer. After 18 months, he was transferred to Subic Bay, Philippines as part of the Afloat staff resupplying ships in the China Sea as the Personnel Officer. His final assignment was to Treasure Island, California as Personnel Officer until his honorable discharge in 1956.

Dick went on to dental school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and practiced the dental profession until his retirement on June 30, 1987. He held the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

Sgt. "Nev" Kempkes

Neville "Nev" Kempkes, a graduate of Arvada High School, was drafted by the U.S. Army in February 1951 and was initially sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. From there he was sent by train to Camp Carson (not yet Fort Carson) for his basic training.

Next came his assignment to Alaska to help protect the Aleutian Islands for the next 17 1/2 months. He served with the 200th Engineer Combat Company. His unit went on maneuvers there with U.S. Navy personnel from time to time.

He held the rank of sergeant and served as an assistant squad leader until completing his service with an honorary discharge in January 1953. He returned home and had a career with the U.S. Postal Service for 34 1/2 years in Arvada.

Honor Flight

So, what is Honor Flight? It is a nonprofit organization which was established in 2005 "... dedicated to provide veterans with honor and closure." Its mission is "to transport America's veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifice of themselves and their friends."

Since its inception, more than 180,000 vets have gone on the Honor Flight program and have been honored. In 2016 alone, 20,558 World War II, Korean and Vietnam vets flew to see and reflect on the war memorials honoring them and their fallen comrades and to be thanked for their service at a special banquet.

There are 131 "hubs" or locations where the vets fly from to attend the activities. Currently, more than 27,000 vets are on waiting lists to participate. According to Honor Flight representatives, 640 World War II vets are passing away every day, so it is imperative to accommodate as many of them as possible.

'All Gave Some; Some Gave All'

Dick and Nev were among 123 vets and 63 guardians who left from Loveland, Colorado, May 8 in buses provided by Colorado State University to Denver International Airport, where they met their American Airlines flight.

They had 135 motorcycles and 12 police cars escort the buses along Interstate 25 with public safety and citizens saluting and waving along the way.

Besides seeing and reflecting on the war memorials, they enjoyed a tour of the White House, were honored at a banquet at BWI Hilton Hotel and heard Vice President Michael Pence speak at the Eisenhower Memorial Building.

Much camaraderie and storying telling were mixed in among the events and travel. Dick summed up his feelings about the experience saying "It was the most impressive weekend I have ever spent."

Nev's thoughts were "I am thankful to have gone but more thankful to those who volunteer."

The printed program stated it so well - "All of you gave some, and many of your comrades gave their all; but, because of you, we still enjoy our freedom. We hope you will long remember and cherish the experiences of this trip."

Our heartfelt appreciation and thanks go out to Dick, Nev and all who have served and defended our country. We are truly indebted to them for their service.

Bill Christopher


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