Area veterans receive Quilts of Valor
During a special ceremony held during the noon hour on Memorial Day, May 28, at Concordia’s Central Park, several local veterans received special recognition and the gift of a Quilt of Valor from VFW Post No. 5649 Auxiliary and friends of the auxiliary.
The special recognition read: “On behalf of the Auxiliary to VFW Post 5649 and friends of the auxiliary, in recognition of your service and sacrifice for this nation, it is a privilege to serve honor and comfort upon you through the award of this Quilt of Valor. Though we may never know the depth of your sacrifice to protect and defend the United States of America, as a gesture of gratitude from a grateful nation, we award you this Quilt of Valor.”
Receiving the quilts at the service were Raymond Kammeyer, Melvin Rehkop, Virgil Rehmsmeyer and Robert “Keith “ Stumpenhaus.
Raymond Kammeyer was a U.S. Army Corporal who was honorably discharged in the fall of 1946. He received the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbon, Army of Occupation Japan, WWII Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Raymond joined the National Guard to receive training before enlisting and worked at the Kansas City Railroad Terminals. His unit was selected as the Honor Guard for the inauguration of Governor Donnoley in Jefferson City.
In March 1945, at the age of 18, he was drafted and trained to go to Europe. In May the troops were shifted to the Pacific. There were 8,000 troops placed aboard two ships — The USS General Mann and USS General Haan, which sailed in wartime format, on very rough seas, for 21 days. One ship lost a propeller during a typhoon. They were scheduled to port in Nagasaki but the harbor had not been cleared of the floating mines and they were sent to Kobi, Japan. Kammeyer was assigned to the Air Cargo re-supply squadron to load C47 airplanes with supplies for the invasion of Japan.
When the war ended in the Pacific he was reassigned to the 3rd Military Railroad Service (MRS) in Kyushu, Japan. He went to Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Miyakonojo. He was only 20 miles from his brother Sonny who was with the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine Division in Konoye. Neither knew this until they returned home on emergency furlough for their dad, who was losing a battle with cancer. Returning to service after his father’s death, Kammeyer was reassigned to the 765th Railroad Shop Battalion in Ft. Eustis, Va.
He traveled all over Japan with the 3rd Military Railroad Service – the railroad was operated by the Japanese and the soldiers had to coordinate with them. Troops were transferred from the Middle East, bringing lend-lease supplies for Russia. Kammeyer was not in combat and always seemed to miss it by a couple of weeks. He does not regret the time he served and feels he received a good education during this time.
His mother displayed a banner in the front window with six stars representing the three sons and three sons-in-law, who were on active duty in WWII. Freedom is never free.
Melvin Rehkop was inducted in the U.S. Army in July 1941. He attained the rank of SGT and was discharged after WWII ended in 1945. He spent 39 consecutive months overseas. His first assignment was to Kitiery Point, Maine, which was his location when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was then sent to Iceland to guard an airfield under construction.
In 1943 the U.S. Army introduced the 90 mm high velocity gun, which now made it possible to reach the enemy planes. The Army created the 749 Anti-Aircraft Artillery, which Rehkop was assigned to. This newly created battalion was sent to England for training on this new gun, radar operations, and cannon fire control. This battalion was the first to be called to new combat areas or hotspots. This battalion stayed together the full length of the war.
Rehkop’s battalion hit Normandy a couple days after D-Day Invasion. They saw combat in southern France and Paris. After the German army surrendered in Paris they moved up into northern France and Belgium. The Germans had bombed the bridge over the Meuse River so they had to cross on a pontoon bridge.
From Belgium they marched up to Holland where they saw heavy artillery and aircraft fire. From Holland they were called back to Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge. They were to bring direct fire on the German tanks. It was after Christmas in 1944 when an intense fog settled in for nearly a week. Finally the fog began to clear from the west, allowing American planes to get out and attack German tanks while their planes were still grounded. That was a big turn in the Battle of the Bulge.
After the Battle of the Bulge the Army moved up to Wessell, Germany, crossing the Rhine, again on a pontoon bridge. They were going to march on to Berlin and help take the city. Eisenhower stopped the advance of the Army at the Elbe River, much to the dismay of the soldiers. While waiting here for assignment they mostly captured enemy soldiers on the run. They later found out that Eisenhower stopped the advancement because he wanted to spare loss of life on territory that would be Russia’s after the war.
Rehkop’s battalion always followed the infantry and tankers during combat. Heavy on their minds was always the chance of being hit by enemy bombs. Rehkop enjoys remembering the night they were heavily bombed a big part of the night. A German pilot was striking a road while all the soldiers were hunkered down on either side of that road. At daybreak, when it was realized that everyone was spared, one of the soldiers called out “The good Lord was the pilot of that plane last night.”
Rehkop knows the Lord was with him every step in the war.
Virgil Rehmsmeyer was called to duty on Feb. 20, 1952. Basic training was at Fort Knox, Ky. He was sent to Korea in November of 1952 and assigned to the 2nd Infantry Tank Company attached to the 23rd Regiment. His duty was to help hold the line behind the 38th Parallel. Most activity was a sporadic enemy probe striking the strong point out-posts.
Piercing winds, which whipped across the open island at 40-50 miles per hour, combined with cold, sleet and rain, were aggravations that were contended with.
On July 23, 1953, a bold raid by the 23rd Regimental Tank Company was made into the valley in front of “Outpost Dick.” Three tanks, the second one driven by Rehmsmeyer, caught the enemy by surprise. Four enemy bunkers were put into a state of permanent disrepair. The tankers were credited with eight enemy kills and one recoilless rifle destroyed.
In the morning of July 27, 1953, a truce was signed at Panmunjom. That night more than three years of continuous warfare came to a close.
Rehsmeyer attained the grade of Staff Sergeant.
Robert “Keith” Stumpenhaus
Robert “Keith” Stumpenhaus enlisted in The Marine Corps on Oct. 1, 1964, and was discharged four years later. His military specialty was Rifleman and he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. The 26th Marines were assigned to the 3rd Marine Division and trained as a Unit at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Hawaii, and the Philippines.
In July of 1966, the battalion was on ships and pulled raids in I Corps, Vietnam, for two months. During this time, Stumpenhaus saw heavy combat, particularly against the NVA’s 325th B Division at the DMZ. One night at 0400 hours, his company launched a bonzai attack, complete with bugles. The company size was about 100 men. During the 40-minute battle, they suffered seven killed and 29 wounded. At this point, he knew he would not get out of Vietnam without being killed or wounded.
During his time in Vietnam, Stumpenhaus was a squad leader. On Jan. 27, 1967, he took his squad on a combat patrol about 20 miles southwest of Da Nang. This area was nicknamed Dodge City due to its “shoot ‘em up” characteristics. He was wounded on this patrol when he hit a booby trap in waist-high elephant grass. He spent six months in the hospital and was left with 120 inches of scars on his legs.
Stumpenhaus’ ribbons include all Vietnam service ribbons, as well as the Good Conduct Medal and The Purple Heart.
Finally, his best friend in the Marine Corps, Don Bollman, was killed in action in Vietnam on March 1, 1967. There is a memorial brick in honor of him both at the Brick Walkway and at The Marine Corps Museum.
Semper Fi, Marines.