TOMAHAWK - Tomahawk's Sgt. Einar Ingman received the Medal of Honor 63 years ago. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service honored him and 12 other Korean War Medal of Honor recipients.
Story By Lauren Stephenson
"He was just a normal dad," said Mary Ingman, Sgt. Ingman's daughter. "He was just a dad that taught us how to ride a bike, tie our shoes. He took us fishing."
But to the rest of the world, Sgt. Einar Ingman was, and still is, a national hero. Ingman enlisted in the U.S. Army between wars, in 1948, as a mechanic. But he ended up going to war in Korea. He received two Purple Hearts for combat wounds. But those injuries didn't end his military career.
"He went back into combat. And that is then where he actually was severely wounded on February 26th of 1951 near Malta-Ri in Korea. And that was actually the incident which resulted in him being awarded the Medal of Honor," Mary Ingman explained.
Corporal Einar Ingman assumed command after the leaders of two squads of his assault platoon were injured. He combined both squads and found the enemy machine gun firing at his men. He charged it alone and killed the remaining crew. He charged a second position and was hit by grenade fragments and shot in the face.
"He suffered severe brain, facial and neck injuries," Mary Ingman said.
But those injuries didn't stop him. He got right up and killed the entire enemy gun crew. Ingman's actions forced more than 100 enemy troops to abandon their weapons and positions. He then fell unconscious.
"My dad was critically injured. In fact, he would not have lived had there not been a helicopter in the area," Mary Ingman explained.
President Truman awarded now Sgt. Einar Ingman the Medal of Honor at the White House in July of 1951. Ingman then came back home to Wisconsin. Tomahawk hosted an Einar Ingman Day Celebration where the city presented him a car and a boat.
"He was just a real person. You know, and he still is," another Ingman daughter, Karen Watzlawick, recalled.
He had more than 20 surgeries and spent a lot of time in the hospital. The Army classified Ingman as 200% disabled but he worked as a mail clerk for what was National Container in Tomahawk for 32 years despite his injuries. He rarely spoke about his service or the recognition he received. But he did make one exception.
"He did go into all the grandkids' grade school classrooms on Veterans Day. He talked about the medal and brought his medal in and talked a little bit about his experience," Watzlawick said.
The Medal of Honor and Purple Hearts aren't the only recognition Ingman has received. In Tomahawk, he has Einar Ingman Parkway. And the recognition truly stretches across the country and around the world.
"Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity - along with my younger brother, Jimmy - the two of us traveled to Seoul, [South] Korea to accept an award on my father's behalf," said Mary Ingman. "The award, actually, my father and four others received was the Order of Military Merit. It's the highest military award that the Republic of Korea awards someone."
Sgt. Ingman received the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and the Korean Service Medal with 3 bronze stars.
The U.S. Postal Service is offering a new stamp honoring the last living Korean War Medal of Honor recipients. Ingman is the only living Korean War Medal of Honor recipient from Wisconsin. His children Karen and Einar III travelled to Washington, DC for the unveiling.
"Two years ago, when they started this program to get the stamp made, there were 13 living. And right now, like I said, there's only 9 left. And dad's one yet. After all his injuries, he's still going," said Ingman's son, Einar III.
"They're coming out with new stamps all the time. But to have something as special as this one is really something for us here in Tomahawk," said Tomahawk Postmaster Alan Bishop.
Ingman suffered a stroke in 2003, which makes it difficult for him to communicate, and he can't travel far. But he will be at his 85th birthday celebration, which his family, the post office and Tomahawk Leader Newspaper are planning for him.
"Just for what he did. For the sacrifices he made. For what he's meant to this town," explained Bishop. "So he's just a special man."
Ingman's wife, Mardelle, passed away three years ago. It was her mission to make sure her husband's service is never forgotten.
"This is kind of our goal, is to keep our mom's wishes going and that is to go to events representing him and, you know, making sure that he's not forgotten," Watzlawick explained.
The celebration will be held on October 6th at 10:30 a.m. at the Bill Buedingen Training Center in Tomahawk. The Tomahawk Post Office will be renamed Einar H. Ingman Jr. Station for that day. People can get a free cancellation stamp with his name on it for 30 days after that. You just have to bring an envelope with a stamp on it.