An opportunity of a lifetime

Donald Schwing served in the Korean War with the 8076 MASH Unit. He traveled in this plane, where he would fly to the various four locations where he was stationed to help perform surgery and medical assistance. (Courtesy photo)

Donald Schwing served in the Korean War with the 8076 MASH Unit. He traveled in this plane, where he would fly to the various four locations where he was stationed to help perform surgery and medical assistance. (Courtesy photo)

Local veteran visits Washington D.C. for Honor Flight

ONEKAMA – For many, the chance to visit the various veteran monuments spread throughout Washington, D.C., is a once-in-a-lifetime endeavour.

However, for Dr. Donald N. Schwing, a World War II and Korean War veteran, the opportunity was met with gratitude and amazement, on a whirlwind Honor Flight that lasted three days.

The Onekama man felt lucky to be alive as he stood in awe at each memorial, with marble monuments etched with reminders of the past.

Donald, and his stepson, Matthew Kuizenga, who acted as his guardian for the trip, were honored to take part in the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in September.

Donald’s wife, Suzanne Schwing, signed him up for the program, and he was selected out of a handful of veterans to join this exclusive trip.

MEMORIES OF SERVICE

In around 1952, nurses and doctors with the 8076 MASH Unit in the Korean War pose for a group photo. Dr. Donald Schwing is pictured on the front row on the right. (Courtesy photo)

In around 1952, nurses and doctors with the 8076 MASH Unit in the Korean War pose for a group photo. Dr. Donald Schwing is pictured on the front row on the right. (Courtesy photo)

Donald served a total of 12 years in the service. He was first drafted into World War II at age 19, when he served as a private in the infantry.

Donald shared that once while on duty, he was patrolling the beach on a cold, damp night with an older reservist, when it was decided by the reservist to take a rest until morning. However, something went wrong.

“We got caught,” Donald said. “As a private in the infantry during the war, if you were accused of malperformance during the time of duty the immediate sentence was death.”

Donald was awaiting trial, when his commander, who was evaluating him, decided to assign him to the New York City College engineering program.

“About a year later, they called him in and said they were running out of doctors, and said they wanted to take some exams,” said Suzanne. “They took him from the engineering program to the medical program.”

He continued going to school in New York, but when he finished, the Army Corps. sent him to Syracuse University for medical school. Afterward, Donald was sent to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit for his internship and residency.

He was still in the reserves, so he was drafted into the Korean War as a surgeon for the 8076 MASH Unit.

Donald Schwing stands in front of the Washington Monument during the Honor Flight, which he took in September. (Courtesy photo)

Donald Schwing stands in front of the Washington Monument during the Honor Flight, which he took in September. (Courtesy photo)

“They made him chief resident. In the middle of that, about two years later, the Korean War broke out,” said Suzanne. “He’s had a lot of great experience. He finished the war, and his residency in Detroit and then came to Manistee to work as a surgeon.”

Donald had a career as a medical professional for many years in Manistee, along with working occasionally in Shelby and Ludington.

OVERWHELMING EXPERIENCE

The Mid-Michigan Honor Flight program was a full experience, packed into three days of travel.

Donald and Kuizenga arrived in Lake Ann, travelled to Traverse City for the chartered flight and then were transported by chartered buses to each monument in Washington, D.C., within that time.

When the day was over, the two took a flight back to Traverse City, where a traditional welcome back was waiting for them. They traveled to Lake Ann, where a goodbye breakfast was served in the morning, ending the three day excursion.

“The volunteers, when we arrived in Traverse City, they had a gauntlet of people to go through,” said Kuizenga. “They did a superb job of welcoming the veterans back. It was a little overwhelming because a lot of the veterans did not get that experience.”

The trip was free of charge for the veterans, and a service fee was administered for the guardians.

Traveling around the nation’s capital, the two were overwhelmed with emotion viewing monuments like the World War

Donald Schwing has many mementos of his experience serving in the military. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Donald Schwing has many mementos of his experience serving in the military. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Monument and Arlington National Cemetery, to name a few.

“It was a beautiful sight,” said Donald. “I enjoyed the kindness and the thoughtfulness of the people who arranged to do all of this program for veterans.”

The program serves to transport as many veterans as possible to visit the monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C., that were dedicated in honor of them and their respective wars.

Kuizenga said the volunteers provided a meaningful experience.

“Their whole mission statement was to make the veteran comfortable, so he would not have to pay for anything,” he said. “I found that to be pretty amazing that they went above and beyond to make that happen.”

For Donald, gazing at the various brass and marble memorials that embodied the wars he dedicated his life to was an experience he will never forget.

“I am the luckiest person I know. I went through many battles and war-time activity and never once got hit by a bullet or a shell fragment, even though they went past me many times,” he said. “I am lucky, and I spent my entire life trying to help other people.”

 

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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