Korean War veteran nears 90th birthday

Marvin Maynard will be hitting a milestone birthday this month when he turns 90 on Nov.27.

Among some of his fondest memories will be the Indy Honor Flight he took in 2019 with his daughter, Janice Hines.

Hines served as a guardian for her dad on the special flight they took along with 84 other veterans.

“When we found out about it, Dad had just had surgery and was in the nursing home for a month for rehabilitation,” Hines said. “We’d just been to the nursing home to visit him earlier that day and it was close to Veterans Day because one of the nurses asked if we’d ever signed him up for the Indy Honor Flight, which I’d never heard of.”

Later that same evening, Janice and her husband, Rick Hines, were at Freddy’s for a bite to eat and there was a couple in front of them, and the man was wearing a hat that said Indy Honor Flight.

“My husband asked him about it, and they said they were in Seymour to talk to a couple of recruits for an upcoming honor flight,” she said. “They were volunteers who interview recruits and see what kind of health they’re in and what medicines they’d need on the trip because it’s a 36-hour whirlwind of a day.”

Janice mentioned her dad to the men, who served in the Korean War, and the couple said they’d love to have a Korean War veteran on a flight.

“They asked if we wanted to call him and see if he might be interested while they were in the area, and I told them he seemed interested when the nurse was telling him about it earlier that day,” she said. “So the couple was going to North Vernon, and when they came back through Seymour, they stopped by to explain everything and said the next flight was going to be Oct. 26, 2019. Then the next would be May of 2020.”

Hines said they signed up for the October flight, and before it took place, her dad was interviewed a couple more times to make sure he was healthy enough, a normal process for all of the flight recruits.

“We went in October. Then COVID hit March of 2020, and there weren’t any more flights for two more years, so I feel like us finding out about it and meeting the couple at Freddy’s that night was a sign for us to go when we did,” she said.

Janice put a photo album together for her dad to remember that day, which started out very early in the morning and consisted of the veterans visiting as many monuments and sites as possible in one day in Washington, D.C., most of them being pushed in wheelchairs by their guardian.

During the plane ride, the flight attendants asked if anyone had never flown on a commercial plane, and Maynard had not. He was brought up front and presented with a set of airline wings.

Hines said there were about 60 Vietnam veterans, more than 20 Korean War veterans and a handful of World War II veterans that day. The oldest among them was a 99-year-old man who served in World War II.

“Dad got a big envelope filled with cards and letters, and so did the other veterans,” Hines said. “The letters were from churches, schools, family, friends, organizations and anybody who wanted to participate.”

Hines said when they landed back in Indiana at Plainfield High School that night, more than 5,000 people were there singing, waving flags and holding signs.

“They wanted to make it special for the soldiers coming off the buses with a big parade and celebration to welcome them them back home and thank them for their service,” Hines said. “Because when they actually came back home from the war, they just went back to work without any fanfare, so that’s what the Indy Honor Flight was for, to thank them for their service.”

One of Maynard’s favorite parts of the trip was seeing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“They did the 21 steps, stopped and turned around, then came back 21 steps, and they kept doing that,” Maynard said. “We saw lots of other things and went to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, where there were statues of the soldiers in the rice patties.’”

Maynard said he started out in the U.S. Army when he was 21 and was one of about 35 young men from Jackson County who left together in February 1953. Including himself, he believes there are only about three of them still living.

“I went in on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 1953, and got out of the service Dec. 9, 1954,” he said. “I served in the Army 23 months and nine days and spent 16 months and nine days of that on foreign soil.”

Maynard said they were all supposed to meet at Brock’s Restaurant in Brownstown that February morning.

“We were told to go in and order our breakfast,” Maynard said. “But before we got our breakfast, the bus came and they told us to go ahead and get on the bus for Indianapolis, so we didn’t get to eat that morning.”

He said the weather was really warm for February, so most of them didn’t have a coat. But when they arrived at Fort Custer, Michigan, there was about a foot of snow on the ground, and they were wishing they had their coats.

“We were up there maybe 10 or 12 days, and then we went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training on Feb. 18,” Maynard said. “I took 16 weeks of training, which was eight weeks of infantry and eight weeks of engineering.”

His parents, Frank and Dorene Maynard, came to visit him one weekend, and his mother about had a fit when she saw his short haircut because prior to leaving home, he had pretty, wavy hair, he said.

“I came home for 15 days furlough, then went back to Indianapolis, then to Chicago and from there, we had to get on a plane for Seattle, Washington,” Maynard said. “It was a little two-motor job, so it wasn’t a jet or anything.”

He and the others arrived in Seattle and stayed a few days before they shipped out and dropped off some airborne servicemen in Alaska, then traveled to Sasebo, Japan.

“I was in the Korean War, but I wasn’t in combat, and we were in Sasebo, which is a big ship port, about 15 or 20 days,” Maynard said. “They said we wouldn’t have to pull guard duty or anything because the Japanese were doing guard duty and kitchen patrol.”

On the second day there, he said the government went on strike, so he and the others had to pull guard duty and kitchen patrol after all.

“We weren’t there long before they shipped us on up to Korea, and our ship docked in either Busan or Incheon,” he said. “I was at both of them and landed on one and departed on the other one.”

Maynard and the rest of the 40th Infantry Division Headquarters Co. were loaded on a truck headed for Seoul, the capital of Korea.

“I was there for a while, and when they started rotating us, I got transferred to 3rd Infantry Division, 10th engineer (battalion), and this guy said he didn’t know what he was going to do with us,” he said. “There were two of us, and the other guy’s name was Miller from California, heck of a nice guy.”

The mess sergeant asked them if they could cook, and they told him they could fry eggs, so Maynard became a cook.

“When we went through Seoul the first time, it was bombed all to pieces and the buildings were all torn up, but when we came back through, it was all built back up,” he said. “As engineers, we built houses called villages and built a school about the size of Redding Elementary.”

Maynard said he also pulled many nights on guard duty at the demilitarized zone in Korea.

“I don’t regret going over there, but I kind of worried when I left the states because there was still some fighting going on over there, and I hadn’t been around guns,” he said. “Mom didn’t even want me to have a slingshot, but I learned how to shoot in basic training.”

When the 40th Division was ready to transfer home, Maynard and the rest of the servicemen stopped in Honolulu, Hawaii, and had 48 hours of liberty.

“After liberty, we got back on the ship, but something went wrong mechanically, and they had to pull us back in, and we got another 48 hours or so while they were working on the ship and we pulled right into Pearl Harbor,” Maynard said.

Heading back to the states, their ship traveled through the Panama Canal, which took about a whole day. Then they wound up back in New Orleans, where the 4oth Division originated, he said.

“When we left Korea, we had our wool winter uniforms on and got to New Orleans and it was about 100 degrees,” he said.

Maynard said they got off of their ship and got on a bus that took them up Canal Street in New Orleans, and then they left the bus, got into formation and marched back down that same street.

“We stood in front of a building, and someone gave a speech while we stood at parade rest, and our boot heels melted into the blacktop it was so hot outside,” he said. “Afterwards, they told everyone to go to a tent, where we got paid, and we threw our M1 rifles into a pile there and were transported back to Fort Knox, Kentucky.”

After a few days of processing, Maynard completed his duty to the U.S. Army on Dec. 9, 1954, as private first class.

He then went back to work at Seymour Tool and Engineering in Seymour, where he had worked prior to joining the Army and where he stayed until retiring in March 1990.

“I worked there about two years before I went into the service, and when I came back, I was supposed to go back there to work,” Maynard said. “They asked me what took me so long, and I told him I was helping my dad remodel the house, but really, I was running around with Ruth, but they hired me back.”

Ruth Banister met Marvin when he wrote her a letter while he was in the service.

“You could write letters and send them for free by airmail back then, so I was writing to about 20 girls just so I could get some letters back,” he said. “I’d never met her before that, and when I got out of the service in December, I started seeing her, and we got married June of 1955.”

Before they married, Maynard lived in a boarding house in Seymour and his parents lived in Clearspring, and three or four nights a week, he would pick Ruth up when she got off work around 10 p.m. at Newby’s Dairy in Seymour and head over to his parents’ house.

“We’d go there and Mom had a big iron pot she cooked beans in and a skillet with fried potatoes and cornbread warming in the oven,” he said. “Sometimes, it’d be about 11 p.m. before we got out there, but we’d eat and then go back to Seymour.”

Marvin and Ruth had two children — one daughter, Janice, and one son, who is deceased. Janice and Rick Hines have three sons and four grandchildren.

Maynard was born in Mooney, which is now Clearspring, and at one time, there was a college there, a hotel, a blacksmith, five grocery stores and a lot of churches.

“There was eight of us kids, and only five of us are left, me and four sisters,” Maynard said. “I was the third child out of eight kids, and my oldest sister will be 94 in March.”

When asked what he thinks has helped him live such a long life, he first said it was probably due to eating beans and taters, but then he said, “It’s living life one day at a time, and that’s about all you can do and pray once in awhile.”