SERGEANT BLUFF | Raymond "Ray" Wink is a handyman and a flag waver; two labels he combined into one piece of artwork that sits in the front lawn of his mobile home in Sergeant Bluff.

"It's a solider kneeing besides a grave of a fallen solider," Wink, 86, said of the memorial he made himself a few years ago.

The grave is a rifle sticking out of the ground with a combat helmet rested on top. In the background of the piece, is an American flag with lights piped around the edges.

"I only light it up in special occasions," Wink said. "Week of Veteran's Day and Fourth of July... I am a bit of a flag waver."

He said he built the piece to honor those that have fallen for our country in battle and for those that fell besides him in the battlefields of Korea.  

A Moville, Iowa, native, Wink was attending Trinity High School in Sioux City when "Korea blew up," he said.

"It was just the thing to do. I quit in the eleventh grade, because I thought I had to do something. I just quit and enlisted. I would probably do it over again," he said. 

Before being shipped off in March 1951 when he was 19 years old, Wink was a rifle coach and a small arms instructor for the U.S. Marines at Camp Matthews near San Diego.

"I had to know every weapon ground crews used," Wink said. "I can tell you from sixty-some years ago the muzzle velocity and chamber velocity of every gun we had. Did you know that a BB gun is faster than a .45 slug through the air? An air rifle goes 1,000 to 1,200 feet per second, a military .45 slug only travels at 850 feet per second. It has sure knockdown power."

"I couldn't tell you what I ate for breakfast this morning, but that kind of stuff sticks with me," he said.

Wink landed in what is now Busan, South Korea, and traveled on an ammunition truck up the eastern part of the country to replace soldiers that had fallen in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, or Frozen Chosin, he said it was appropriately called.

"When I got there, a lot of guys said it was 20 below zero that winter. I spent the next winter there, and I believed them," Wink said. "It was just colder than a well digger's butt." 

For his first couple months, Wink was the head of his squadron as a gunner. His job was to carry, load, and shoot 4.2 inch mortars. Wink said battle consisted of using the mortars from one side of a mountain to shoot onto the other side to knock the enemy off of it after receiving commands from a forward observer who was stationed on top of the bluff.

A forward observer, "tells you when to shoot, what to shoot, how to shoot, how much to shoot," Wink said.

When his squadron's forward observer was injured after shrapnel flew into his eyes in battle, Wink stepped up.

"It was a voluntary job, but somebody had to do it," he said. "I was that for six months until I was due to come home."

After over a year overseas, Wink came home in April 1952. While the soldiers pulled into the harbor at San Francisco, Wink pulled out his camera and took a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.   

"We were sure glad to get home. I'll tell you, there wasn't nobody that wasn't," he said while holding the picture 64 years later. 

Since coming home, Wink and his wife of 66-years, Rosie, had two children. Wink then started a business doing various mobile home work. 

"I moved mobile homes and built storage sheds-- hundreds-- room additions, porches, decks, garages, awnings, steps, poured concrete," Wink said. "Anything they wanted, I had done for mobile homes."

Today, he likes to keep his tools dusted off as he builds birdhouses out of cardboard in this home's attached carport-- which he also built himself. And for over 20 years, Wink drove school buses for Sergeant Bluff-Luton sports teams until a few years ago. 

"If I died tomorrow I would be OK," he said. "I've pretty much done what there is to do." 

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Crime and general assignment reporter

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