When local resident Harry Seilhammer, a retired Korean War-era veteran, celebrates his 90th birthday this weekend, one of his gifts will be a proclamation from the town.
Seilhammer, who will turn 90 on Friday, said he was surprised to learn he would receive the proclamation, which honors his service to the country and the town.
He said it’s a good thing when veterans are recognized — not just him.
Seilhammer’s son Alan said the issuance of the proclamation by Mayor Michael Ludwick came about by accident.
As he was inviting friends, family members, and area veterans to his father’s birthday party, Alan Seilhammer said, Ludwick found about the event and decided to issue the proclamation.
Alan Seilhammer said the mayor’s gesture was “most kind.”
After all his father has done “to help others, someone is stepping forward to acknowledge him,” Alan Seilhammer added.
He agreed with his father that it’s wonderful anytime a public official honors a veteran.
Ludwick said proclamations are a small gesture — a simple way of saying, “Thank you” — to residents who serve their country and town.
“We just figured it was a way to honor someone who’s turning 90 and served his country well,” Ludwick said.
Harry Seilhammer enlisted in December 1948 after a friend from high school told him they were likely to be drafted, though he had thought about joining because of his uncle’s service in World War II.
“I was walking down the street toward my work one day, and I ran into a buddy I graduated with, and he said to me, ‘You know they’re gonna put on a draft,’” he recalls. “So we went and joined up.”
He spent the next four years in the Air Force before leaving the service in October 1952.
During his service, Harry Seilhammer was deployed to northern Africa, where he worked as an airplane mechanic and flight engineer.
The airbase in Libya was a way station of sorts, a place of connection for planes flying from the United States to Korea, he says.
“I can remember, in comes this squadron of airplanes, and they all landed,” he says. The base crew had to refurbish the planes and do anything else that was necessary before they went on their way, he adds.
As a flight engineer, Harry Seilhammer says, he got to fly across Europe with other service members.
“I touched Germany, England, and France,” he recalls. “We flew them all over the place.”
After his discharge, he was offered a job at Pratt & Whitney and worked there for more than 40 years.
Harry Seilhammer is a member of the town’s Veterans Council and of American Veterans Post 18.
As a member of both organizations, he helps to keep track of veterans who are being discharged, to make sure they’re properly taken care of.
“When you serve like that, and you first come back after being discharged, there’s a lot of things you need to know, and you have trouble sometimes getting to the areas where you can find out what you need to know,” he says. “We, as an organization, help these guys do that. We do whatever we can to help veterans.”
In addition, he volunteers in town, participating in the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades and providing military honors at funerals for deceased veterans.
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