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Hebron vet belatedly gets medals for Korean War

March 18, 2014
In The News

When Howard Lunt arrived home from the Korean War in 1953, there wasn’t much fanfare. There were no parades or triumphant bands waiting to cheer him on. Nor did he receive any medals for his service for fighting along the 38th parallel — his military record likely lost amid the winding down of the war that claimed the lives of more than 30,000 Americans. That changed Monday when Lunt, 82, was presented with five medals honoring him for his service during the conflict that many, including Lunt, describe as the “forgotten war.”

When Lunt went to the veterans hospital in Newington last year to get a pair of eyeglasses, a worker there checked his records and noticed that he had never received medals for his service. At first, Lunt declined. “Then I said, ‘What the hell, I might as well, I’ve been waiting 60 years,’” Lunt said. “Now I got ’em.” Lunt was presented with a display showcasing a combat infantryman’s badge, a Korean service medal, a United Nations service medal, a National Defense medal, and a 50th Anniversary Korean War Service medal that came from the Korean government.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your amazing service,” U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Courtney, D-2nd District, whose office created a display box for the medals, said. “You make us all proud to be from eastern Connecticut.” Lunt’s wife, Ann, was at the ceremony. She said that when she met him in February 1956, the young, blue-eyed veteran wouldn’t open up. “He was a mess when he came back,” Lunt said. “He wouldn’t talk to anybody.” The couple married several months later in September. For “what he went through — it’s nice that he has that,” she said of the medals. Lunt was born in Vermont but was living along the coast of Maine when he was drafted by the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War.

After completing basic training at Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky, he was assigned to George Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Division. He achieved the rank of sergeant and served as the squad leader for the M18A1 57mm recoilless rifle section, a shoulder-fired weapon, operated by a two-man crew, primarily used against tanks, buildings, and other vehicles. The loud weaponry damaged Lunt’s hearing. As a sergeant, Lunt oversaw a squad of 10 men, directing them to positions among the hills. Before Lunt was drafted, he was dreaming about becoming a professional baseball player with the Boston Red Sox, he said. “I didn’t make the Boston Red Sox, but if I knew how much money I could have earned, I would have stuck with it,” Lunt said.

When he returned home from the war, he got a job in the sheet metal department at Pratt & Whitney. He quickly got tired of working the third shift and went to work for Coca-Cola and then Pepperidge Farms. He later ran Lunt’s Market on Route 6 in Andover for more than 20 years with his wife and five children. Courtney said it was not uncommon for paperwork to get misplaced as wars wound down. He said family members should contact the Veterans Affairs Department if they know of someone who hasn’t been given their recognition. Courtney said they recently learned about a family that will be given medals posthumously in remembrance of a family member who served during World War I. “Not only Mr. Lunt but his family will have this as part of their heritage and heirlooms,” Courtney said. “It’s an important symbol of the most high-level service that you can give, which is to wear the uniform of this great country.”

Lunt brought with him to the event an album of black-and-white photographs he took with his Brownie camera while he was overseas. His “pride and joy,” his wife commented, is his photos of Marilyn Monroe making a visit to see the troops. While flipping through the photo album, Lunt told stories about a man he fought alongside who was supposed to be sent home but was shot because “someone in the rear echelon didn’t do their paperwork.” He also talked about a friend who died after a shot hit a pile of ammunition that exploded. Lunt described the scene when it was announced that the war was over and South Korean soldiers attached to his unit fired off all their ammunition in celebration then ran across to enemy lines and hugged soldiers they were shooting at only moments before. Lunt also recalled the harrowing visits he would have to make to visit a listening post near enemy lines. He would take along with him the sharpshooter in the group, a man from Kentucky who could hit a bull’s eye without making any adjustments to his gun to account for wind or elevation. “I thank God for saving me personally,” Lunt said.