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102-year-old veteran from Chippewa Falls presented with medals for Army service

Neal Korn (pictured left) who recently turned 102 years old. Neal is a World War II Veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944.(VFW Post 305/Facebook)

More than 80 years after joining the Army, a 102-year-old veteran from Chippewa Falls was presented with five medals and awards for his military service to the U.S.

On Monday, family, friends and fellow tribal members from the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe showed up with a throng of military veterans to celebrate Neil Korn and thank him for his Army service.

Korn, the oldest living member of the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe, was also honored by tribal members during the awards ceremony at the VFW Post 305 in Eau Claire.

Korn was born March 22, 1922, in Stanley, grew up in Chippewa Falls and Boyd and spent a lot of time at Lac Courte Oreilles reservation.

Korn said he was grateful for all the people who showed up Monday at his awards ceremony.

“I like it, and I appreciate it,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Prairie du Chien, who is the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, presented Korn the medals, which honor his service in the U.S. Army from January 1943 to December 1944.

“Things are getting a little zippy in the country right now. Today’s the day where to put all of that aside,” Van Orden said. “I’m here to celebrate and publicly acknowledge a man who is responsible for our freedoms today. I’m incredibly thankful to be here.”

Van Orden said Korn is “one of our nation’s heroes” and “part of the Greatest Generation.”

Korn was drafted into the U.S. Army at 19 years old and served in World War II as a private first class in the 405th Artillery Battalion. He was deployed in east Africa, England and France.

“He served our country honorably, and we’re forever indebted to him for his service,” Van Orden said.

Korn declined to speak during the event but did get teary-eyed a couple of times while he was being honored.

The medals awarded to Korn on Monday include:

* The Good Conduct Medal, awarded to active duty enlisted military members who conducted honorable and faithful service.

* The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, awarded to military service members who performed military duty in the European Theater, with the Army Three Bronze Stars.

* The World War II Victory Medal, awarded to active duty service members who served during the time between Dec. 7, 1941 and Dec. 31, 1946.

* The Army of Occupation Medal, awarded for 30 consecutive days at a normal post of duty on assignment of the armies of occupation, with the Germany Clasp.

* The Honorable Service Lapel Button, awarded for honorable federal military service between 1925 and 1946.

Lac Courte Oreilles honors Korn

Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal governing board member Gary Clause honored Korn during Monday’s ceremony before Gary Quadarer Sr. presented him with an eagle feather.

Clause said that was a high honor for the Ojibwe people.

“This eagle feather, as you know, comes from the eagle. He is the one who soars the highest and the closest to the great spirit,” Quadarer said. “So the eagle is highly revered amongst our Indian people all over Turtle Island, and to us as Indian people, it is the highest honor you can bestow upon another person is a gifting of an eagle feather.”

Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal board member Michelle Beaudin read a proclamation during the awarding of the feather. Korn was then covered with a blanket, another custom of the Ojibwe people, Clause said.

Quadarer offered a prayer for Neil, saying that he was grateful for all the veterans who gathered to honor a great man.

“Many thanks for the long life that you have given him to walk amongst us on Mother Earth,” Quadarer said. “And I pray that you give him many more years to come so that we can enjoy his company. I ask for blessings upon him and for all his relatives here and all veterans.”

Beaudin said Korn’s awards and recognition were a long time coming.

“I’m glad that he is still here to be able to receive the awards and to see this day. We have all kinds of military service among all Native Americans.” Beaudin said. “They are our warriors. It is the highest honor we have to be a warrior, to serve our country and serve and protect our people.”

Korn’s family

Cliff Korn, a U.S. Air Force veteran and nephew to Neil, said Neil is the last survivor of his generation. He had eight siblings, most of whom lived into their 90s, Cliff said.

Roger Kubera stood alongside Neil for much of Monday’s ceremony.

“Neil is the father of my half-brother, who was seven years older than I was. He married my mother when she was 16,” Kubera said. “On Jan. 6, 1943, he married my mother. On Jan. 8, he was drafted into the Army.”

Kubera said that while Neil was serving, his artillery ship got hit and he had to spend 45 days on a beach dealing with the aftermath.

“We had to bury the bodies,” Neil said.

Kubera said he was proud to stand with Neil.

“I’ve known Neil my whole life, and he is so deserving of this recognition,” Kubera said.

Neil said he thinks the secret to a long life is not drinking, not smoking and exercise. He still works out 20 minutes each day, he said. Neil drove his own car until two months ago when he finally had his keys taken away, Cliff said.

“He’s really something,” said Cliff.


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