A lifelong Midway resident and retired chief warrant officer 3, George Ginter, began his military career with the Georgia Army National Guard, but he soon was called to active duty to fight in the Korean War.
The 83-year-old is now preparing to travel to Washington, D.C., as part of Honor Flight Savannah.
“I wasn’t in World War II,” Ginter said. “I was a little bit too young for that one. A lot of boys went in saying they were 17, but they weren’t. One of my brothers served in World War II but both my brothers and I served in Korea. My daddy served in World War I.”
Honor Flight Savannah board member and U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador Luis Carreras said the Honor Flights originally were offered to veterans of World War II as a way to honor their service and allow them an opportunity to see their memorial and other veterans memorials in Washington. Carreras said that as the number of surviving World War II veterans grew smaller, the board decided to invite Korean War veterans as well as terminally ill Vietnam veterans. Ginter departs from Savannah on Sept. 5.
His memories of the Korean War have not faded over the past 60 years. He said he joined the Guard in 1948 as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and eventually became a motor sergeant. From the comfort of his “man cave” in his home near Sunbury, Ginter talked with Carreras and the Courier about Korea and Vietnam. He retired from the Army in 1972.
“A bunch of us and our wives were having a barbecue when that war broke out,” he said. “They told us to report back to our unit. That was August 1950.”
Ginter said because he was in maintenance, he didn’t see a lot of combat, although some members of his unit were killed by a landmine. When he returned from Korea, he left active duty. Times were hard back then, though, so he went back on active duty and remained enlisted until the Army told him he could no longer stay in the maintenance field due to his high enlisted rank.
Ginter decided to become a maintenance warrant officer in the early 1960s. By that time, he had served in the Panama Canal Zone “for a while,” and had been on civilian component duty with the National Guard.
After he went to Vietnam in 1968, he was medically evacuated to Fort Stewart due to a leg injury that occurred 11 months into his 12-month tour. Like his tour in Korea, Ginter said he didn’t see a lot of direct combat in Vietnam, but recalled a few frightening occasions, such as the helicopter flight from his base camp near Cam Ran Bay.
“I think every rivet in that chopper was loose,” he said with a chuckle. “Now that was scary. At the first hospital they took me to when I left there, all of us there had orthopedic-type injuries. There was a young fellah there who’d had his leg cut off just below the knee. He said the mine he stepped on didn’t blow it off but that he caught gangrene in the wound, so they removed it.
“I asked him where he was from, and he told me it was a little place nobody’d ever heard of. He said he was from Jesup, Georgia. I told him, ‘Man, you’re from right down the road from me.’ That just goes to show how that big world out there can become so small.”
Ginter showed Carreras a photo album that contained pictures from Korea and Vietnam. He also showed off scores of woodcarvings and memorabilia he accumulated when he served as a Boy Scout leader. When he spotted a wooden rack that held a dozen military “coins,” Carreras took the opportunity to present Ginter with a U.S. Army Reserve coin.
“I’m honored to be able to do this,” Ginter said of the Honor Flight. “I was glad they were doing it for the World War II veterans. The people who are doing this are getting a greater blessing than those they’re doing it for. You know the Scriptures say, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’
“What I expect to get from the trip is companionship and camaraderie. I don’t expect to be sharing a lot of war stories because I don’t have any.”
Carreras explained that Honor Flights are not really flights but bus rides that are planned to provide for the needs and comfort of each veteran, especially veterans who use wheelchairs. They’ll be provided with personal “guardians.” Each guardian and others who support the trip do so at their own expense. Expenses for the trip are paid for by donations to Honor Flight Savannah.
Anyone who would like to make a donation and veterans who’d like to attend an Honor Flight can call Carreras at 912-492-0738.