Ensuring the Korean War is not forgotten
By Marv Kohlbeck
Born on August 2, 1930; raised and educated in Iowa; John Bixby, now residing at 9201 Washington Ave. in Marshfield, always had a desire to farm.
The Korean War disrupted Bixby’s plan to farm at the age of 21. He was drafted in 1951 and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic military training, and he then went to Korea, where he spent 21 months, much of that time in combat zones.
Assigned to a tank unit of the 2nd Division in the cold Korean winter weather, his combat experience was curtailed when the armored tank he was driving was hit by enemy fire and took heavy damage, which made it inoperative. Bixby received burns and eventually was rescued by his comrades.
Following his two-year hitch of military service, he entered civilian life still bent on a desire to farm. Eventually he married and moved to Wisconsin in 1963. His dream of full-time farming never materialized as he spent much of his working career as a factory worker at the Preway fireplace plant in Wisconsin Rapids, dabbling as a part-time farmer.
Bixby provided me with this background of information as we visited at the Central Wisconsin Airport near Mosinee on the eve of Sept. 12 while we awaited the arrival of veterans returning from the Never Forgotten Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. My interest in visiting with Bixby was based on the fact that he had designed, built, and painted two military signs posted on the barn exterior of the Schuld farm located a few miles south of Marshfield on old Highway 13.
I asked him why he went through all the effort to erect signs in memory of the 2nd Division and the 8th Air Force units that he fought with while serving in Korea.
Apparently the loss of fellow soldiers and equipment has left an indelible mark in the mind of Bixby as his answer was direct and clear, “The Korean War has been referred to as the forgotten war, but those of us that served in that war-torn country will never forget the cost of lives and equipment as well as the weather conditions we had to live in.
“I toiled for nine years in trying to decide what I could do to remind people of that war. My desire was to erect signs as a reminder to the public, so with the willingness and help of farmer friends Clarence Boerboom of the town of Richfield and Bernard Schuld, town of Cameron, we got the signs completed and erected over the past two years.”
He went on to say, “I wanted to do more to remind the public of veterans’ service in all phases of military life, so I approached the Stratford Sign Company of painting and erecting a sign on the silo of the same farm. They struck off a good deal for me.”
Bixby’s mission has nearly been fulfilled as all that remains to be done is to erect lighting for the sign.
I thanked John for his service, friendship, and his burning desire to recognize all who have served. I concluded with one final concern, “John, this personal challenge must have cost you a lot of time and money. What can we do to help?” He agreed that he would accept any donations sent to his address at 9201 Washington Ave. in Marshfield, or he could be reached at 715-383-9112.
Our visit at the airport was interrupted when an announcement was made that all should stand to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The resounding response was heartwarming as the veterans came off the plane to be greeted by the large crowd that had gathered to thank them for their service.