REEDSVILLE - Reedsville resident and retired Pennsylvania state trooper Mike Aumiller is collecting information and pictures of local military veterans, with a personal focus on Korean War veterans.
Aumiller said his drive to ensure the veterans of Mifflin County are honored and memorialized stems from his father's own story of military service during the Korean War.
"He doesn't talk about it much, but one day he just opened up," Aumiller said. "I think that was part of his life he had just let go."
Robert Aumiller, far right, and his friends take a break from their duties at the U.S. Air Force’s K-2 air base in Taegu, Korea, during the Korean War. Behind them is a F84 Thunderjet, also pictured below, similar to the planes Aumiller worked on as a jet mechanic during the war.
Aumiller said his father, Robert Aumiller, only recently began to speak openly of his service in Korea, revealing stories of the friends and comrades he had lost in the war.
Aumiller said his father, who was a staff sergeant with the 311th Fighter Bomber Squadron, worked as a jet mechanic and was stationed at the K-2 airbase in Taegu, Korea, during the war. Robert Aumiller would often fly with a pilot in a single-engine airplane behind enemy lines with his toolbox to fix planes in need of minor repairs, Aumiller said. Robert Aumiller maintained and repaired The U.S. Air Force's F84 Thunderjets, which Aumiller said were relatively new to military service during the war.
Robert Aumiller enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the age of 19, after graduating high school, and went to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for training as a jet mechanic, Aumiller said. Robert was deployed to Korea in December 1951, almost a year into the war, and came back to the U.S. in January 1953. Aumiller said his father's unit was a part of Operation Strangle, which was to stop all enemy supply shipments and destroy bridges in North Korea.
Aumiller said his father's cousin, Harry Sunday, and a close friend, Howard Goss, both of Milroy, were killed within a week of each other in the same area of Korea, adding that his father never spoke of losing his cousin and friend until recently.
Both men's pictures and profiles of military service are available on a Web site, www.koreanwar.org, for which Aumiller is collecting pictures and information.
Aumiller already has collected information on numerous fallen heroes from Mifflin and Juniata counties, including Eugene E. Willis, Donald L. Wagner, James R. Allen, Edward A. Carter, George L. Gordon, Robert E. Hartsock, Kenneth E. Kane, John W. Kenawell, Samuel L. Kurtz, Roy S. Zeidy, Robert C. Logan, William Thomas Norris, Everett F. Smalley, George A. St. Clair, Leona Stringfellow, James H. Gearheart, Cloyd E. Zeach, Benjamin Hooke Milliken, Carl B. Parsons and Thomas J. Smith.
Aumiller said 54,246 American soldiers were killed during the Korean War, with an additional 8,196 missing in action. Family members of the missing are now donating DNA in hopes that if the United States' relations with North Korea improve they will be able to someday identify their family members, Aumiller said.
"People say you can change history," Aumiller said. " But the thing you can't change is that these people gave their lives for this country."
He said 17 women were killed during the war, adding that they were mostly nurses who were killed in air crashes on the way to serve in M.A.S.H. units.
Anyone with information on Mifflin or Juniata county veterans is asked to contact Aumiller via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 437-1813.