WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — When servicemen and servicewomen are away, letters from home are worth more than money to many of them.
Loy Eary was in the 45th Infantry Division.
“We served proudly, and they’ve got a great history from WWII,” Ret. MSGT Eary said.
He was just barely 19 years old at the time and said he wasn’t a trigger puller because he worked in the post office.
“They took me in as a kid, and then very shortly, I became a man,” Eary said.
Eary is a collector of sorts.
“This is an entrenching tool,” Eary said.
He also still has his dog tags.
“They are just part of you,” Eary said.
He even has a canteen cup and a mess kit.
“We ate out of them for so long,” Eary said.
He bought them from surplus stores because he wanted to have things that reminded him of his service days.
“I am so glad I served, and I am glad I was able to serve,” Eary said.
His two older brothers served as well.
A 1951 photo shows three young Eary sons with their mother just before the two youngest sons shipped off to Korea.
“Post office was a really rewarding job for me because people were so proud to get the mail,” Eary said.
He said they didn’t have an actual post office building.
“It was a tent, but that’s where we sorted our mail,” Eary said.
He was a regimental mail clerk. Each day the clerks would pass out the mail to soldiers in their different companies.
“The GIs in Korea, they were more interested in mail than they were money,” Eary said. “In Korea, we didn’t have anything to spend money on, so a lot of guys gambled a lot, and some of them would send that money home.”
He said it took three-cent mail 30 days to get to Korea. He always enjoyed filling in for the company mail clerk.
“You’d call out Jones, and you’d throw his letter to him, and everyone was so happy,” Eary said.
After his time overseas, he got out of the Army for a few years, then he reenlisted quite a few times in the Air Force.
“The military was always good to me,” Eary said.
The Eary boys spent more than 20 years in service, and Loy Eary still has the uniform from his retirement in 1973.
“It just makes you proud,” he said.
Years after his retirement, he heard about the Kansas Honor Flight at a retiree luncheon at McConnell Air Force Base.
Eary said he wanted to get involved as a volunteer, and then he and his daughter took the flight to Washington, D.C.
“Got my bags and started out, and this Baltimore Honor Flight guy come up and said, ‘You let me handle that bag. You shake hands with the ones who have come to see you,'” Eary said.
He said the trip changed his life.
“You appreciate it,” Eary said.
He said the reception when they returned to Kansas was like no other.
“For somebody to come up and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ it just sorts of gets to you,” Eary said.
He wanted to give other veterans the same opportunity, so he started relying on his keen collecting skills.
“That’s my forte, is to collect cans, and I love it,” Eary said.
He’s now lovingly known as the can man.
Eary has hauled in nearly 3,000 pounds of aluminum to send more veterans on Honor Flights.
“To have done a little bit to send him over there, it’s rewarding,” he said. “It really makes you proud that you have done this to send some old veteran over there.”
Eary is a lifelong member of VFW Post 7253, so he made a deal with them to save their cans.
He now does a weekly pickup at the post for recycling and also has neighbors and church friends who will bring him cans.
Eary and his sweetheart met on a blind date and have been married for 63 years. Their son-in-law served in the military, and their grandson is enlisted in the Kansas National Guard.
To learn more about Kansas Honor Flight, click HERE.