November 25, 2020

A Hero’s Welcome: George Kuntz Joins Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight

George Kuntz stands where the doorway to his main street barbershop once stood.

George Kuntz stands where the doorway to his main street barbershop once stood.

As we honor our military veterans this week…MaxYield takes a moment to recognize one of our own. This story on George Kuntz, from West Bend, was published in the March 2016 issue of My Solutions magazine. Thank you George and every veteran for your service!! We appreciate you!

It was emotional, enjoyable and even a bit puzzling at times, but the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight created a lifetime of positive memories for George Kuntz—all in one day.

“There was lots of fanfare—man, I got a lot of hugs!” exclaimed Kuntz of West Bend, who is MaxYield Cooperative’s route delivery driver. “That was a little surprising. Geez, we’re not heroes.”

Yet Kuntz and his fellow veterans are heroes in the eyes of their friends, neighbors, MaxYield team members and other supporters of the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight, which flew 142 veterans to Washington, D.C., on May 7. “I enjoyed visiting with the other veterans,” said Kuntz, who served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955. “Even though I didn’t serve with any of them, we became good friends within a day.”

Kuntz, who grew up on a farm near Gibson City, Illinois, was just 18 when he was drafted into the Army. During his two years of service, he spent a year and a half overseas. Unlike many Vietnam veterans, Kuntz and his fellow Korean War veterans were not shunned or shamed when they returned home.

“I was honored when I came back from Korea,” said Kuntz, who had achieved the rank of specialist second class when he was honorably discharged. “The community hosted a picnic for a buddy and me when we returned home from the service.”

It’s never too late to thank a veteran again, however. MaxYield was proud to help sponsor the 2016 Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight, which included male and female veterans from Emmetsburg, Ruthven, Storm Lake, Algona and other northern Iowa communities. “The MaxYield team is grateful for the brave men and women who have served our country through the years,” said Chad Meyer, client relations/communications for MaxYield. “We want to thank them by supporting events like the Honor Flight and Hunting with Heroes at Lakota.”

Veterans attracted a lot of attention

Since 2005, the Honor Flight network has honored America’s veterans for all their sacrifices by transporting nearly 160,000 military veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials.

The Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight flew out of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport at 6:20 a.m. on May 7. When the plane landed at Washington Dulles International Airport later that morning, nearly 300 people were there, from police officers to children, to welcome the veterans. “All that attention was almost sort of embarrassing, but it was fun, too,” Kuntz said.

george-2-1024x681After the veterans and tour guides boarded three motor coaches, a motorcycle escort accompanied the group to the memorials in Washington, D.C. Destinations included the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, National World War II Memorial, United States Air Force Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, where the Marine Corps War Memorial depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima is located. “We also saw the changing of the guard at Arlington, which was impressive,” Kuntz said.

Throughout the day, the Honor Flight veterans attracted a lot of fanfare. “People would come up and hug us,” Kuntz said. “That was touching.”

After a full day of sightseeing and plenty of good food, it was time to fly back to Iowa. “The memorial we talked about the most on the way home was the Vietnam Memorial,” said Kuntz, who was impressed that people were waiting at the Ft. Dodge Regional Airport to greet the group when the plane landed at 11:30 p.m.

While Kuntz didn’t get home to West Bend until after 1 a.m., he wasn’t tired. “There was too much excitement and energy for me to go to sleep right away,” he said.

Honor Flight was well worth the trip

Like many veterans of his era, Kuntz’ military service had become a piece of his past as he started a family and supported his wife, Myra, and their children Terri, Todd and Tom.

Not only was Kuntz a barber for 41 years, but he also worked part-time at the co-op in West Bend on his days off. He helped install kitchen appliances, including refrigerators and stoves, sold through West Bend Elevator Company (WBEC). He also helped paint. “Back then, everything at WBEC was green and white,” he noted.

By 1987, Kuntz became the head custodian at the school in West Bend. After he retired, Kuntz knew he didn’t want to sit around. For the past four years, he has worked part-time as MaxYield’s route delivery driver, where he hauls supplies and special orders to the various MaxYield locations. “I can’t call myself a ‘double clutcher,’ because the truck’s an automatic,” Kuntz joked. “I like to visit people, though, so it’s great to stop about every 10 miles and shoot the breeze with everyone.”

As he makes his rounds, Kuntz sometimes thinks back to his May 7 Honor Flight. “It was well worth the trip. It’s great to see this level of support for our veterans and the military.”

Editor’s note: The Honor Flight was especially meaningful to the Kuntz family, since George’s son Tom is a school principal in the Washington, D.C. area, and Tom’s wife works in a U.S. Navy facility in the area. Staying connected to family is important to George, a widower and grandfather of six. His daughter, Terri, lives in Florida, and son, Todd, lives in Indiana.

 

 

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