Honor Flight Celebrates Schnell's Service
The excitement is mounting: it’s been almost six months since the last Honor Flight of Southern Indiana took off, and they’re ready to do it again. Honor Flight of Southern Indiana is ready to take 85 veterans and their guardians to Washington, D.C., on May 6 for Honor Flight EVV 8.
Stanley Schnell, an 84-year-old Korean War veteran and parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Jasper, said everything has been well organized and just like clockwork, as one would expect military proceedings to go. “The volunteers are just like angels. I just can’t wait.”
Schnell, a native of Schnellville in Dubois County, enlisted in the Air Force on May 22, 1952, at age 19 and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He performed well in several areas of his qualification tests and chose air traffic controller as his specialty due to his interest in working towards becoming a pilot. When he found out he would have to sign on for three additional years of service, he settled on air traffic controller as his permanent specialty. He reached the highest skill level at age 20 and was sent to Japan. He spent 1953-56 at Chitose Air Force on the island of Hokkaido, 600 miles north of Tokyo, Japan.
As a young air traffic controller with the U.S. Air Force, it was Schnell’s job to help guide Korean War pilots safely through the skies.
“Air traffic control was very hectic,” Schnell said. “There were times when the planes couldn’t get back to the carriers or on the carriers, and we lost planes. That was hard.”
The hard times were peppered with heroic moments as well. Schnell earned credit for the save of 2nd Lt. Richard E. Wendell, who encountered an emergency in flight. Wendell’s radio compass became inoperative, and his cockpit heat was uncontrollable. While taking care of these with emergency actions, he lost visuals and notified the control tower he was lost and low on fuel. Schnell directed the airman to safety, assisting him in landing the aircraft as the pilot’s fuel reserves emptied.
Now, 60-plus years later, Schnell recalls those times and said, “I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t have my sweetie.”
Although not married during the war, Schnell was courting his sweetheart, Ann Kaelin, and wrote her letters every day after meeting her during a visit to his hometown. “I came home to visit, and she was on the church steps of Sacred Heart. She came up to babysit,” tells Schnell. He saw her several times over the next week and took the opportunity to introduce himself at Mass the following weekend, leading to the two becoming sweethearts and writing each other letters every day.
Schnell married Ann at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Sorgho, Ky. On April 27, 1957. The couple just celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. They are the proud parents of two daughters, Sheila (Keith) Eckert of Jasper and Susan Persohn of Newburgh. Schnell’s oldest grandson, Tyler Bartley, a student at IUPUI studying sports management, will accompany him on the Honor Flight.
Schnell’s brother-in-law, Robert McMillan, from St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh, is also going on the Honor Flight. “We didn’t even know! I was telling him about it and he said he was going, too.”
Honor Flight veterans and their companions will depart Evansville at 5 a.m., CDT; arrive in Washington, D.C., at 9 a.m., EDT, and spend the day touring monuments and memorials.
Schnell looks forward to visiting all the monuments - but especially the Air Force and Korean War monuments - and experiencing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.
Veterans will return to a Welcome Home Parade at the Evansville Regional Airport at 8 p.m., CDT. The event is open to the public. Officials advise visitors to arrive early to find a spot as a large crowd is expected. Parking is available at Anchor Industries with entrances off U.S. Highway 41 and State Highway. 57. Shuttles will transport guests beginning at 5:45 p.m., CDT, from Anchor Industries to the airport.
To learn more about Honor Flight of Southern Indiana, visit http://honorflightsi.org/