Just before their train took off for Camp Cooke in 1950, a fellow soldier told Stanley Honeycutt to look out the window.
On the platform below, Honeycutt’s wife, Ella, had rushed to the train and lifted their 15-month-old daughter, Sharon, so the little girl could see her father’s face.
Meanwhile, on the train bound for what would become Vandenberg Air Force Base, Honeycutt struggled to hold back tears.
“You don’t know if it’s the last time you’ll see them, so it’s very emotional,” recalled Honeycutt, 83, of Arroyo Grande. “But I really couldn’t show my emotions too much because of all the other soldiers that were with me at the time.”
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Honeycutt doesn’t know who shot the photo at the train station, near San Bernardino, which wound up in the possession of his daughter, who is now 62. But the image tells the story of many American servicemen and servicewomen who were once asked to leave a stable life in exchange for a very uncertain one.
Honeycutt eventually wound up in a machine gun unit near the 38th Parallel, which divided North and South Korea. As the Korean War waged on, Honeycutt was hunkered in the cold Korean hills, uncomfortably close to foes seeking to kill him. “We could hear them, but we couldn’t see them,” he said. “All we did was fire on that position. We don’t know if we hit them or not.”
While Ella had a premonition that her spouse had been shot or captured, Honeycutt managed to avoid injury. And after three years of service, he reunited with his family — which would eventually include three more children. Meeting his family first in Seattle, tears again came to Honeycutt’s eyes. But this time, they were tears of joy.
“I had good feelings coming home,” said Honeycutt, who today is a retired retail worker who has been married 63 years.
In recognition of Veterans Day on Friday, today’s Central Coast Living section features photos of local veterans, both as they were during wartime and as they are today.
Like Honeycutt, each of the vets entered dangerous situations with no guarantee they’d ever see loved ones again. While some of them were wounded during their service, they all made it home alive.
Yet, even as America plans to wind down its involvement in Iraq, today more war stories are being created, and for some of our military personnel, the danger continues.
“I wish the rest of our troops were home,” Honeycutt said.