Photo by Frank Prager
Marvin Brinker with the quilt he was presented honoring his service when he returned from Washington, D.C.
ALTON — Even though victory had been declared over Germany and Japan by the fall of 1945, Marvin Brinker discovered quickly that did not mean the United States did not still have serious obligations related to World War II.
He was drafted into the Army in November of that year following his graduation from Bunker Hill High School the previous spring.
After training at Fort Sheridan in Chicago, Brinker was assigned to a unit in charge of guarding and transporting German prisoners of war held at Camp Grant in Rockford, Ill. He said most people are unaware German prisoners were even held on American soil.
“We were in charge of guarding the prisoners at the stockade as well as guarding them as they completed the first leg of their trip back to Germany,” he said. “Many of them were not enthusiastic about going back because they did not know what awaited them there.”
Discharged in December 1946, Brinker worked for a number of the factories and businesses in the Alton area during his civilian career, including Owens-Illinois Glass, Laclede Steel and Canteen Co. He retired from Olin Corp. in 1993.
Brinker will turn 89 in July and lives in Fosterburg with his wife, Pat. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in November. They have 5 children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
In April, Brinker went on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Honor Flight is a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure. The flights take veterans to the nation’s capital to see the monuments and memorials honoring their service.
Brinker’s son Paul served as his guardian for the day.
“We had to be at the airport in St. Louis at 3:50 a.m.,” Brinker said.
There were 22 other veterans on the flight with their guardians as well as a television crew from one of the St. Louis news stations covering the event.
Landing in Baltimore, the veterans were transported to Washington on a bus escorted by a special police detachment. Brinker had the pleasure of having his oldest daughter accompany him to several of the sites. She lives in the Washington area and was able to meet him there.
The veterans’ time in the capital was a full day. Among the memorial sites included in their tour were the Navy Memorial, the Marine Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.
“The memorials were especially nice,” Brinker said.
The group also stopped at the Pentagon and had the opportunity to have their pictures taken at the locations.
Meals were provided, including dinner at the Air Force Memorial. Returning to St. Louis that evening, they received a huge reception at the airport, where hundreds turned out to welcome them back.
Brinker was presented a special quilt commemorating his service and highlighting his military status. On his return trip, he was also presented with cards and letters from schoolchildren and grateful citizens during a special mail call on the airplane.
The trip concluded late that evening after a long and active day. It was one Brinker says was exceptionally rewarding and which he will always remember.