Special Veterans Day Feature
Mr. Bill Appleby, US Air Force veteran, had just graduated high school and was seventeen years of age when he voluntarily signed up the United States Air Force. The country was only five years removed from WWII and had recently entered the Korean War when he joined. He was inspired to do so by the men he knew who had earlier served in combat against Germany and its allies. The Korean War, often called “The Forgotten War” was sandwiched between WWII and the Vietnam War.
He, his brother, and his cousin all three joined the armed services simultaneously because, as he put it, “there wasn’t much going on and a lot of young men joined at the time, and we looked up to soldiers from WWII and felt encouraged to go.”
They left their homes in Kentucky to enlist for basic training together. After completing basic training, all three were dispatched to different assignments and locations in South Korea. Mr. Bill was assigned to the 315th Combat Cargo Unit/Regiment Team.
“Fighting was over in ’53,” Mr. Bill explained, “but I served in combat from ’52-’53. I was in a Special Task Force (a combat cargo unit). Our duty was to go and secure the area for the planes to fly in and bring supplies to the troops. “
Securing the area involved combat.
When asked if there were any events from those two years he remembered and wanted to share, he replied, “Unfortunately, there were no cameras on the end of the guns. I personally left everything over there and I didn’t try to bring anything back with me.”
One memory he did retain concerned his return to the US, particularly landing in California where he and his fellow soldiers were not met with expressions of appreciation, flags waving or welcoming faces – as they should have been – but by demonstrators who were demonstrating against the war and its servicemen. It was evident in his quiet voice that the hurt and lack of gratitude are still fresh in his mind, despite the decades that have elapsed.
“That was the sad part,” he quietly recounted, while sitting in his chair, looking down. “When I came back – the way we were accepted. They demonstrated against us when we landed. The United States was just over five years from fighting in WWII and American people didn’t accept that we were in war (again).”
“There wasn’t anything special about it (returning home),” he farther related. “After the war was over, I initially stayed in Japan before coming home to the States, but I was ready to get home.”
It’s impossible to imagine the dismay and emotions those young servicemen must have felt after giving everything to their country (with some of their comrades having given their lives) only to return to faces of anger and protest of their fellow country men and women.
After his stay in Japan, Mr. Bill was given a thirty-day delay in which to travel from California to his new assignment at Alexandria Air Force Base. At that time, air travel was sketchy, and he was to endure a two-day delay in San Francisco before he could board an available plane. He decided to forego the plane ride and take a bus to his home in Louisville, KY, eager to see his family and homeplace. After a short stay with his family, he was dispatched to Alexandria, LA to the Airforce Base.
It was there that Mr. Bill Appleby met a beautiful young lady named Verna Corley from LaSalle Parish. The two fell in love and it wasn’t long before he proposed, and they were married. They made their home here, and here is where Mr. Bill is today. He continued his service to this country in the local Veterans Service Office and as chairman of the Draft Board until the draft ended in 1973. He retired from the military with thirty years of service.
Ms. Verna passed away less than a year ago and Mr. Bill turned eighty-nine this past September. He is proud of his son, Twyman, his one and only grandchild, and his very beloved one great grandchild.
“I have one son, one grandchild and one great grandchild,” he shared with a big smile spread across his face.
His home, which he designed to reflect those found in his native state of Kentucky, sets on a peaceful hill in LaSalle Parish with a big front porch boasting a few rocking chairs and a tranquil view. The welcome mat just inside the front door of his home reads “Air Force” and his treasured book of memorabilia and photographs reads the same.
He is proud of his service to his country, and this country is thankful for his service to it. The appreciation may be more than a few decades in coming, but today, Mr. Bill Appleby and others who fought for this country – their commitment and their sacrifice – are heroes. The welcoming voices and accolades ring out to him and all veterans for the wars they have fought, the hardships they endured and the memories that stay long past their welcome. You are appreciated. You are celebrated. You are a hero, Mr. Bill. Thank you.