NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953. Almost six million Americans served during the conflict. More than two million of those veterans are still alive today, and all of them, like John “Jack” Stempick, have quite a story to share.
Stempick was born in East Haven, Conn. When he was just a teenager, his life changed forever.
“I was the prime age at the time when Korea broke out, so that was 1950,” Stempick recalled. “So I joined the navy reserves down in Fort Hale in New Haven.”
He served as a medic and was soon called upon to serve his country.
“We all got activated,” Stempick explained. “I said, ‘God, what did I get myself into?'”
In 1952 Stempick was deployed to Korea.
“I took a choice, because they could not force me to be a medic, so I said I’ll take a destroyer or a submarine,” Stempick recalled. “So what did I get? The battleship USS Missouri.”
Stempick served for two years aboard the ship. His role was gunners mate third class.
“It was the coldest place that I have ever been in my life,” Stempick said. “The salt water spray hit the deck and freeze right on contact.”
Today the 85-year-old veteran, with the help of his doctor at the Connecticut Vascular Center, is fighting a new battle against peripheral artery disease.
“We’ve been able to treat him conservatively and avoid surgery,” said Ralph De Natale, M.D. “Often times these patients like Jack, who could only walk a block, now can walk four or five blocks without stopping. He followed our requests and he actually improved dramatically.”
The pair has bonded over Stempick’s war stories.
“It’s hard not to form a relationship with our vets, especially now where the vets from World War II and the Korean War are far and few in between,” Dr. De Natale said.
“To me it was an honor to be a veteran, and I’m just proud of it,” said Stempick.
Stempick is currently a member of the USS Missouri Association. He just retired as their president after serving for eight years.
To learn more about Connecticut Vascular Center, visit ConnecticutVascularCenter.com..