Photo by Frank Prager
Harry Kortkamp is 82 years old and still actively involved with the Alton VFW.
ALTON — Harry Kortkamp has seen a lot of change in his 82 years.
He said some things are better than they used to be and some things are worse. However, one thing he feels good about is today’s military and its soldiers in particular.
“Today’s warriors are better than they have ever been,” he said.
Kortkamp should know. His military experience dates back to the Korean War era and his service to the country in the Marine Corps.
Pointing out how military operations and combat in particular have dramatically changed from previous eras, Kortkamp attributes the difference to the tools, training and equipment in use today.
“The technology available to today’s soldiers makes them superior in every way,” he said.
Kortkamp was born and raised in Alton. He graduated from Alton Senior High School in 1951 and immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps.
“I was always patriotic,” he said. “But I wasn’t able to enlist until I had finished high school.”
He was deployed in central and eastern Korea as a telephone lineman for military communications. His responsibilities included running communications lines between military organizations, often in combat zones.
The work presented unique challenges not normally encountered in communications support because there was no infrastructure like telephone poles on which to run the lines.
“We would have to run the lines through trees and on the ground,” he said.
Kortkamp spent 13 months in Korea and three years in the Marines. He was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant in 1954. Upon leaving the military, Kortkamp spent his civilian career as a sheet worker in Sheet Metal Local 268, retiring in 1995.
Still active and energetic, Kortkamp lives in Godfrey. He and his wife, Sarah, were married for 46 1/2 years before her passing in 2000. He has two daughters, one son, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Kortkamp is extremely active in veterans organizations. He is a member of the Alton VFW Post 1308 and the Alton American Legion as well as Detachment 1160 of the Marine Corps League. He served as the Post Commander for the VFW from 2009 until 2015 and is currently a junior vice president in the organization.
He says he enjoys helping the VFW in providing services and assistance to area veterans.
“Our whole purpose is to serve veterans,” he said.
Kortkamp highlights a program the VFW sponsors that focuses on area students. The Voice Of Democracy essay contest is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who write essays on designated topics related to pride and patriotism. The theme of this year’s essay is “My Responsibility To America”. Students can win several local awards and a national award of up to $30,000. Contest information can be found on the web at vfw.org/VOD.
Kortkamp has had a long and fulfilling life which has included family, military service and a successful civilian career. He continues to make valuable contributions for everyone in the community from veterans to students through the organizations and programs in which he still participates.