Archived Story

Veterans recount a range of service

Published 5:35pm Monday, November 12, 2012


Ken Hornburg’s taste of combat came during three weeks in riot-torn Detroit in 1967.

“My first child was born while I walked guard duty,” he told Ashley Horvath’s fourth- graders at Justus Gage Elementary School Friday.

He retired from Ameriwood Industries and from 21 years in the Army National Guard.


Sean First


Sean First, a 1996 Union High graduate who wore his Marine Corps uniform from 1997 to 2001 — discharged nine days before 9/11 — was a foot soldier in the infantry.

After SOI (School of Infantry), First, who works for JAC Custom Pouches while studying nursing, became classified as a “scout swimmer” in a 17-foot rubber motorized dinghy behind a Navy ship.

“My 12 guys and I would swim to the beach and make sure it was safe to land,” said First, explaining the group started 30 miles from shore. “We’d signal them with infrared light and provide security for the boats.”

First was stationed in Oceanside, Calif., 40 miles north of San Diego. He went overseas for six months, including three days in Hawaii, Kuwait for more than a month, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

“Australia was my favorite place. Very clean,” he said.

“I saw a lot of interesting things and people,” First said. “When I came back, I did more water training. I became a lifeguard and transferred to a base pool, teaching Marines how to swim and survive for six months. You guys go the beach wearing swimming trunks or bathing suits. We swim with boots, camouflage, backpacks, rifles and helmets.”


Glen Glessner


Glen Glessner was a sergeant first class during seven years in the National Guard and first lieutenant for six years in the Army Reserve.

“No military combat time, all civilian,” he said. “The National Guard has changed a lot in the last few years and is going to change a lot more. Jobs are more intense and situations are entirely different than World War I, II and subsequent wars.

“They used to call us ‘weekend warriors,’ which we weren’t because we drilled every Monday night and at two weeks summer camp, plus extra time on the rifle range. I was in Company B, 246th Tank Battalion,” Glessner said. “I transferred over here to Dowagiac, 1957-’63.”


Ken Hornburg


“I pick up where Glen leaves off,” Hornburg said. “I joined the Guard in ’64. I trained in clerical at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. When I came back, I was assigned assistant pay specialist, which I never saw the paperwork because I was promptly put into the driver’s seat of a Jeep.”

He was driving the battalion commander by the end of six years.

Hornburg served “in and out of tanks,” but ended his career with eight years as a teletype team chief.

“What you guys call Internet and email, teletype was the Army’s version before email arrived.”


C Rations and MREs


“C-Rats was a box with a complete meal in it,” Hornburg said. “I was privileged because the generator we used to power our radios on our teletype, you could heat the can and have a hot dinner. They were into MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) when I retired. That’s an altogether different animal. You know what raisins are and oatmeal. Multiply it to meat, potatoes and veggies, all dried. You have to throw them in hot water for a hot meal. They would reconstitute in cold water, but didn’t taste as good. My favorite was strawberries and cream because it tasted like the real thing — wet or dry.”

“MREs have come a long way since then,” First said. “Most food I had wasn’t dried. They have heaters, and you can put the food in with water. They have frankfurters and spaghetti and Snickers brittle,” which he described as an improvement on “horrible Army fruitcake.”

“Tank manifolds will heat food, so long as you made sure to crack the can, or you’d end up with frankfurters or spaghetti all over the engine,” said Glessner, whose grandson — Hendress’ son — Marine Sgt. Matt Rentfrow is in North Carolina after twice being deployed to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, where he may be returning before February.

Reveille sounded at 4:30 a.m.

“I was automatically given a bugle because I had played in the Three Rivers band,” Glessner said. “Getting up a half-hour earlier than everyone else was a great honor.”





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