LOW MOOR — John Schmitt, 81 and Paul Nielsen, 80, have shared a street in Low Moor for decades. Today these two neighbors shared a plane to Washington, D.C., as part of the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities.
Born in Rock Island, Ill., Schmitt was painting a house in the Quad- Cities when he received his notice of being drafted into the service in 1952. After training as an engineer, he was sent to Seoul, Korea in 1953, where he maintained the roads in the engineer company. He returned home in 1954.
For Schmitt, his time in Korea was not too bad. Pulling out his old photographs, he remembers the men with whom he served. He remembered them throwing him a big party at the base in Seoul when he turned 21.
“Before the planes come over,” Schmitt said.
A Low Moor native, Nielsen also joined in 1952, enlisting in the Air Force. His first choice was the Navy, but he was told there would be at least a year’s wait.
“My draft notice was in the mailbox, is what they told me,” Nielsen said.
He and a buddy spoke to a recruiter on a Thursday and were on a train to go get their physicals by Sunday. He said many people did not know he had left at first. However, he did marry right after joining up.
After doing well on an aptitude test for mechanical work, he was assigned to aircraft maintenance. He served in the Philippines, Okinawa, Guam, California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Delaware, spending most of his time in Okinawa. Overall, he enjoyed his time in the service.
“But, I wouldn’t want to do it again,” Nielsen.
Approximately a month ago, both men learned they would be on today’s Honor Flight, leaving the Quad-Cities at 5:30 a.m. Having lived three houses away from each other for years, they were surprised and excited to be going in the same group.
“It’s good to have somebody that you know,” Schmitt said.
While both men spent some time in the nation’s capital during their service and after, neither have been there in the past 30 years. Both are looking forward to seeing the Korean War monument.
“We were in the forgotten war,” Nielsen said.
They also are excited to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.