CLINTON — “It was the best experience that I ever had.”
That experience for Clinton’s Donald Noonan began on May 5, 1952, when the 20-year-old was drafted into the United States Army. The country was in the midst of the Korean War.
Though Noonan’s time in the Army would provide him with the best life experiences he still holds with him, he now admits that there was certainly some fear running through him when he was drafted. He had never been too far away from home, but that was about to change.
Noonan completed eight months of infantry and eight months of engineering work at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, then after taking a 30-day leave, he was shipped overseas to Korea. Immediately, Noonan and his company were thrust into the conflict.
“We were only 40 miles from the firing line,” Noonan recalled.
In total, Noonan served 21 months in the Army, returning for the final time to the Gateway area in 1954. It was a long time coming for the St. Mary’s High School graduate.
He was ready to get back to daily life in Clinton.
“I was just tickled to death to be back after spending that time overseas,” Noonan said. “There was going to be an opening in the pressroom at The Herald. Fourteen years I put in down there.”
Noonan took part in a prestigious Honor Flight in 2011, traveling to Washington, D.C. to take in the sights and happenings in the nation’s capital. He recalls watching things such as the Changing of the Guard ritual, a memory that still stands out.
But the part of flight that stands out to Noonan the most is his group’s return to the Quad-Cities.
“There were over 1,000 people there greeting us, and I just had tears rolling down my face,” Noonan remembered. “We were just so surprised. They were just glad to see you and shake your hand.”
Now 85 years old, Noonan’s time of service has long passed. However, his willingness to serve the country is still as bright as it was on May 5, 1952.
Though he now resides at The Alverno Health Care Facility, Noonan says he would volunteer for service again in a heartbeat.
“It was a good experience to know that if you really wanted to make a go of it, you could do it,” Noonan said. “If I had to go again, I’d be glad to go back in... it was good to learn how to take care of yourself and things like that.”