They left Milaca as boys.
They returned as men.
Bill Lindholm was one four teenagers who were at the Milaca train station on January 20, 1951 with 86 members of Milaca Company C, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Tank, 47th Infantry Division, headed for Camp Rucker to prepare for service in the Korean War.
“Eighty-six men went to Camp Rucker, Alabama,” Lindholm told students and community members during Veterans Day festivities Thursday, Nov. 11 at Milaca High School where Milaca Company C, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Tank, 47th Infantry Division was recognized.
“We were known as the Milaca National Guard, and we met every month at the Milaca Armory,” Lindholm recalled.
“We put together guns, took them apart, learned to cook, learned what a tank is- and how to run one and fix one,” he said.
On January 16 1951 the members of the Milaca-based National Guard group got word of their activation.
After four days of drills the men boarded the train for Alabama.
But Lindholm and three other Guard members- Jarvis Anderson, Ralph Segerstrom and George Thome, would not join them because they were too young to be deployed and were still students at Milaca High School..
“We met them at the train station,” Lindholm said, noting to the crowd gathered in the high school gym that the depot still proudly stands.
“They knew we would be joining them in six months,” Lindholm recalled.
According to a newspaper account of that day, school was dismissed from 11 a.m. to noon, to allow students and teachers to be on hand to say goodbye to relatives and friends.
“The four of us kids waved good-bye, but it wasn’t really a good-bye,” Lindholm said. “The men knew that six months later we would be joining them and were going to be soldiers,” Lindholm said.
The guardsmen boarded the train, single file, while Commander Roy Tingblad of the American Legion, and Okttor Mattson of the local VFW passed out cigarettes and candy bars to the men.
Once having departed from Milaca, along the way additional troops were added with stops in Princeton and Anoka, while the Hutchinson unit had also joined the delegation.
When Lindholm, Anderson, Segerstrom and Thome arrived in Alabama, the training was hard.
Lindholm recalled how at Camp Rucker the four “boys” learned to be soldiers in the presence of the other 86 men from Milaca.
“We got to wade through the swamps of Alabama to learn to be a soldier and got to go to the hot sands of Texas to learn to be a soldier,” Lindholm said.
“Oh, that was tough,” Lindholm said with a sigh.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the mobilization of the Milaca Company C, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Tank, 47th Infantry Division for the Korean Conflict, Lindholm noted.
When the 90 members of Milaca Company C, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Tank, 47th Infantry Division were eventually discharged, they came back to Milaca and formed a “Last Man’s Club,” Lindholm said.
“We thought that this was a chance for us to get together. It worked real good until the group disbanded in 2017.
Four years later, less then 10 men from the Milaca Company C, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Tank, 47th Infantry Division are still living, Lindholm said. Two, Ralph Segerstrom and Bill Becker, were on hand for the recognition of the group at the Veterans Day program.
The others are referred to by Lindholm as “missing in action.”
That’s because they’re not here today,” he said.
To keep the memories of the other men alive, Lindholm read aloud the names of each of the 90 members of Milaca Company C, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor Tank, 47th Infantry Division.
“It’s hard not being able to see them again after spending 70 years together,” Lindholm said.
Lindholm then thanked the students and community members in attendance at the program for listening to his story.