Veterans honored -- Korean War veterans share their stories

MORGAN CITY, La. — It was three years of their lives, and that was more than 58 years ago, but those three years have stuck with them years later. Walter Chauvin, 81, and Ted Mire, 78, both of Centerville and both Korean War veterans and first cousins, were in Morgan City Friday for the AARP Veterans Day Luncheon at the St. Mary Senior Citizens Home.

Chauvin served in Air Force while Mire served in the Navy, both joining in 1951. Chauvin spent the majority of his time in the Air Force in Anchorage, Alaska, serving 2½ years on the Air Force base there and drove a welding truck, he said. “Really what we were there for was, just like guards from Russia, we walked the street with sticks not guns (patrolling the base),” he said.

Chauvin was straightforward about why he joined the Air Force. “I joined that (Air Force) when I was 18. I figured I better join because a week after I joined my mother got the papers for me to be drafted, and I didn’t want to be a walking soldier,” Chauvin said laughing.

Mire was just 17 years old when he joined the Navy, his mother had to sign for him, he said. He also had to gain weight just to be accepted into the service. “The guy (recruitment officer) told me to go eat some bananas, drink a lot of water and come back, and I come back and I tipped the scale over by about two pounds over the limit,” Mire said.

Mire vividly described the time he spent in the Navy, especially in action in Korea. As a destroyer crew member, the crew’s job during wartime was to watch American planes take off and if the planes went down, Mire was part of the group that had to go rescue the survivors, he said.

Chauvin’s time in the Air Force meant he received the education that he lacked before joining. “I quit school in the seventh grade and finished my education in the Air Force and got my high school diploma from Centerville (High School while in the Air Force),” he said. Chauvin was “glad to get back in the south” though after spending a couple years stationed in Alaska, he said.

Mire lost “half” of his hearing in Korea, as a result of battleship gun blasts, he said. “The battleships were on the outside of us (in Korea), probably about six miles, and when they’d shoot a projectile we’d watch it go over our ship,” he said. “Every time they’d shoot one, we’d say, there goes a Volkswagen. That’s about how big it is,” Mire said with a chuckle.

Both veterans have kept in touch, through the years, with some of the men they were in the service with, Mire said. “I used to go to all the ship reunions.”

Mire served on the sister ship the USS Juneau, which was sunk by the Japanese during World War II, and many men including five brothers were killed, he said. After that tragedy, the Navy no longer allowed siblings to serve on the same ship. Mire attended the 50-year anniversary of the incident in Waterloo, Iowa, where the brothers were from, he said.

Mire and Chauvin both enjoyed their time in their respective branches of service, they said.

Mire summed up his service in the Navy saying it was “a good experience, and it didn’t cost nothing.”

Chauvin was glad he served his three years, and the experience was “very educational,” he said.

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