Korean War veteran Walter Block

Korean War veteran Walter Block stands in front of his Newcastle, Nebraska, home. The U.S. Army veteran is a retired homebuilder who built the arbors in front of his home. 

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

NEWCASTLE, Neb. | Walter Block remembers growing up on his family's farm with three brothers, developing a hard work ethic helping out with the family chores. 

"My dad would say, 'You will go and do this.' And you did," he said. "That didn't hurt a bit, being in the Army, to know things like that." 

At 22, Block would put his work ethic into practice near the 38th Parallel, laying communications and artillery as a member of the U.S. Army. 

Block was drafted along with his younger brother, Norman, in 1951. He completed basic training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was deployed near Seoul in early 1952, where he worked as a surveyor in the Third Division of the Ninth Field Artillery.

During his deployment, Block attempted twice to visit his brother, Norman, who began fighting as a private on the front lines but was injured and later transferred to an office position. 

"We were pretty much side-by-side with the divisions," Block said. "I tried my best to get to see him, but I never got a chance."

Block said he remembers "eating dirt" from nearby enemy fire on only one occasion. On another, Block, who is colorblind, said he could see camouflaged guns occasionally being exposed, but his color-sighted fellow soldiers couldn't make it out. 

"They wouldn't believe it at all," Block said. "Finally, they were watching close enough, and there was a 'poof,' and they were able to see that. And they called in the airstrikes."

When he came back to live with his family in Lyons, Nebraska, Block said there wasn't a negative reception of troops like there would be two decades later after the Vietnam War. People instead reacted as if they didn't know where he'd been.

"I don't think we published much here in the States about it, you know," he said. "If it hadn't have been for our president we had, we wouldn't have gotten talked up very much."

After the war, Block met his future wife, Muriel, on a blind date. They married in a double wedding along with Walter's brother, Norman, and his wife in 1955. The couple has lived in Newcastle, Nebraska, since late 1959.

Block worked for several years as a carpenter and homebuilder. He later worked in Newcastle for the city, fixing buildings and working as the neighborhood law enforcement. Muriel worked as a nurse for St. Luke's hospital in Sioux City and retired in 1998. 

An automobile accident in the late 1970s on his way to Ponca, Nebraska, put Walt in a hospital for 49 days. Since then, he has had multiple hip replacement procedures.

Five years ago, Walter was diagnosed with colon cancer. Following an operation and full chemotherapy treatment, he has received cancer-free test results ever since. 

These days, Block enjoys spending time with Muriel and his three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Block sometimes reads books on the Korean War. But he said he wouldn't go back to visit.

"I sometimes wish I could have went back over and just looked the place over, to see what had changed," Block said. "And then I think, why in the world would you want to do that?"

Military service continues to run in Block's family. Their son, Mike, served in the Navy. Their oldest grandson is a West Point graduate who has served in the military for 10 years, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now an officer in the Judge Advocate General's Corps and is pursuing a master's degree in military law.

"I’m very proud of my wife and my family, my kids and all ... so I can’t complain," Block said.

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