Korean War veteran Henry Dykstra

Henry Dykstra, a Korean War veteran who served in the U.S. Army, stands with his 1954 McCormick Farmall Super M-TA tractor on Oct. 5 at the dairy farm he owned near Orange City, Iowa, before his retirement. 1954 was the year he came home from the war and married his wife, Joyce.

ORANGE CITY, Iowa | July 27, 1953, was the day an armistice was signed that would end the Korean War. 

Henry Dykstra, of Orange City, said the days -- and minutes -- before the cease-fire are burned into his memory.

"The sky was like fire," Dykstra, who turned 85 on Oct. 26, said. "Then all of a sudden, right at 12 a.m., it was quiet... I will never forget it." 

Dykstra was a 21-year-old from Hospers, Iowa, when he received his draft call in July 1952. Dykstra is one of nine siblings from a father who came to America from Holland, after serving in World War I. Dykstra recalls his father telling him and his four brothers and four sisters about what he went through to get to a free country. 

"All nine kids were very patriotic," Dykstra's wife, Joyce, of 62 years said. 

All five sons in the family followed their father's lead and fought in the military. Two were in Korea, before Dykstra was drafted.

In August 1952, Dykstra entered the service and went to Sioux Falls overnight and then to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, for a few days. His brother, Gerrit, was wounded by gunfire in Korea, and was coincidentally sent to Camp Chaffee to be treated at the same time.

"I was fortunate enough to see him," Dykstra said. "I was scared, seeing your brother like that before we went."

On the first day he landed in Busan, Korea, he was thrown into action. Dykstra, who became an Army sergeant and chief of the gun section for the 780th Field Artillery Battalion behind the 45th Infantry, was stationed in the front lines of the demilitarized 38th parallel between North Korea and South Korea. 

"We landed in Busan in Korea. Then took a train to Seoul, then on a truck in the middle of the night to the front lines -- first day I was there," he remembered. "It was a scary ride because when you got closer you could hear the rounds going off. It was pitch dark."

Dykstra said the worst day of his life was every day he was in combat, and the most special was when the peace treaty was signed. Because then, he could start a family. 

"So when he left we talked about getting married, but when his brother came back wounded, he felt it would be best not to," Joyce recalled. "He said, 'If I come back then we will get married right when I come home.'"

Dykstra was discharged from the military after a furlough on May 11, 1954, and the two were married a month later on June 11.

He farmed outside of Orange City for most of his life, before retiring to a house inside of town in 1994. Dykstra still goes out to the farm "about everyday" to help out his son, who now has taken the reins of the dairy farm. 

Dykstra cherishes six antique tractors he has collected over the years and rides them during Orange City's famous Tulip Festival Parade in May.

But he admits there are two that are his favorites.

"My brother and I, when we were only 15 or 16, we had two uncles that were living on a farm... and their neighbor moved to Montevideo, Minnesota," Dykstra said. "They asked my brother and I to drive their 1942 Silver King from Archer, Iowa, to Montevideo -- 160 miles. I'll never forget it."  

He and his brother Gerrit took turns driving the tractor on the trip, while one followed in a vehicle. Dykstra said the tractor couldn't have gone faster than 25 miles per hour since they had to haul a trailer of grain behind the tractor. 

Years later, Dykstra received a call that the owner of the tractor was in the hospital and needed to sell his things to pay for medical expenses.

"I found out it was going to be auctioned off, so my wife and I went up there and bought it," he said.

His other favorite was the one that started the collection, a 1954 McCormick Farmall Super M-TA.  

"I bought it because that was the year we were married in '54," he said, "and they only made that tractor that year. So I thought that was kind of special."

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