GOSHEN — Editor’s note: In anticipation of today’s Celebrate America event at Black Squirrel Golf Club, The Goshen News has profiled local Korean War -era veterans the past several days. We hope you enjoyed getting to know some of our local unsung heroes. Today’s event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a concert and a program honoring veterans. Fireworks will start around 10:15 p.m.
War changes things. That’s a statement Goshen brothers Lyle and Don Burtsfield know all too well.
Born in the early 1930s — Don in 1932 and Lyle in 1933 — the Burtsfield brothers were raised in a little home along U.S. 33 on Goshen’s south side with very little exposure to the outside world. That all changed with the arrival of the Korean War in 1950.
As the oldest of the two brothers, Don was first to enter the military, joining the Air Force in 1952. He went on to complete his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
“I’d never been away from home before,” Don said of the experience. “It was totally new to me. Then after that I went to school to learn how to build radio towers.”
Following basic training, Don worked for three months in California with a firefighting detail before being transferred to Washington, D.C., where he would remain until March of 1953.
“That’s when I was sent to Iceland,” Don said. “The war was going pretty strong then, and they sent me up there to build radio towers. We ended up being there for about five and a half months. You’d think Iceland would be bad as far as the weather, but actually the average temperature is 52 degrees. I do remember the first day of summer up there, though. We all stayed up, naturally, because the sun never sets. I’d never seen anything like it.”
After completing his radio tower work in Iceland, Don returned once again to the states where he was transferred to Massachusetts for another radio tower construction project.
“That’s where I finished up,” Don said of his military service. “I got home in December of 1955.”
Looking back on the nearly 60 years that have passed since his service during the Korean War, Don said he is proud of his time spent in the military and sees it as an experience that all young people today should have.
“If for nothing else, just to see how it is out there, to see how the rest of the world lives,” Don said. “And it’s just good training. I mean, just look at me. I’d never been nowhere before my military service. It kind of opens your eyes to things.”