Three-war veteran comes home to DAFB

Retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth, third from right, stands during the national anthem as the Caesar Rodney High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Honor Guard presents the Colors Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. During the Veterans Day celebration, students recognized Wolgemuth as this year’s DAFBMS Veteran of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth, third from right, stands during the national anthem as the Caesar Rodney High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Honor Guard presents the Colors Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. During the Veterans Day celebration, students recognized Wolgemuth as this year’s DAFBMS Veteran of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth briefly addresses attendees, students and faculty during an assembly in the gymnasium Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. Wolgemuth was recognized as the DAFBMS Veteran of Honor for 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth briefly addresses attendees, students and faculty during an assembly in the gymnasium Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. Wolgemuth was recognized as the DAFBMS Veteran of Honor for 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth, holds onto his cap during the Veterans Day ceremony where he was recognized for his military service Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover AFB Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. Wolgemuth was stationed at Dover AFB from 1956 to 1964. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth, holds onto his cap during the Veterans Day ceremony where he was recognized for his military service Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover AFB Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. Wolgemuth was stationed at Dover AFB from 1956 to 1964. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Sixth grade student Emily Goeke, center, daughter of Maj. Robert Goeke, 436th Contracting Squadron commander, left, speaks with retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth, right, after the Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. Wolgemuth, the 2017 DAFBMS Veteran of Honor, met with students and faculty after the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Sixth grade student Emily Goeke, center, daughter of Maj. Robert Goeke, 436th Contracting Squadron commander, left, speaks with retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth, right, after the Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School on Dover AFB, Del. Wolgemuth, the 2017 DAFBMS Veteran of Honor, met with students and faculty after the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Appreciation, honor and respect were among the many feelings expressed at the Veterans Day Ceremony held Nov. 9, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base Middle School.

Similar to previous years, DAFB Middle School was determined to find a new Veteran of Honor to speak at this year’s ceremony.

Manette Dupras, DAFB Middle School achievement liaison teacher and coordinator of the event, said a different Veteran of Honor is chosen every year so the students can see the differences in who served, where and when they served, and the experiences they had.

After reaching out to the community and utilizing their military ties, 96-year-old retired Lt. Col. Clarence Wolgemuth became the school’s veteran of choice.

“This is an honor, you got to do it. Even though I’m three quarters blind, and three quarters deaf, I said I have to do it,” said Wolgemuth.

The start of his military career dates back to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the United States entry into World War II when he enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Corps.

Wolgemuth received his commission and pilot wings in 1943, and then in early 1944, was sent to the Southwest Pacific for 16 months where he flew 108 combat missions against the Japanese.

Following his return to the United States in August 1945, he received an honorable discharge, joined the U.S. Army Reserves, and was later recalled to active duty with the United States Air Force Air Defense Command in 1951.

Within a period spanning 30 years Wolgemuth had served during three wars, logged more than 30,000 flying hours in combat environments, and held various support roles at all levels of leadership.

His service, up until his retirement in 1973, had gained him an immense wealth of knowledge and admiration for which he is being recognized for now, more than ever.

While Wolgemuth only stood at the podium for a brief moment and shared his remarks, he was more than just a figure in front of an audience, but rather an absolute representation of all the true American heroes who came before us.

His presence served as a gateway to understanding and recognizing the services every military member provides, which was one of the goals of the ceremony.

“I want the students to recognize that people have sacrificed for everything that we have, and I think they do. And I think that we can tell in their writing and in their behavior, so when they were at the assembly, they were all very respectful and I think they were thoughtful about it,” said Dupras.

She also said the students seemed to be very impressed with the fact that Wolgemuth had served during three wars.

“I think they really looked at that as such an accomplishment, and they were so thankful that he served and did what he did, because they appreciate what they have. And I think especially here, more so than other places, going to school on the air base, they appreciate that,” said Dupras.

Nicole Jones, the principal of DAFB Middle School, agrees.

“Every one of our kids is touched by that personally, so they understand the significance and importance of it. And just the pride that our students have when it comes to even saying the daily pledge,” she said. “They take those things to heart and they know what a serious matter that is because they have the maturity and the background to understand that.”

To highlight their gratitude, several students read their Patriot’s Pen essays, which covered topics ranging from the meaning of freedom of speech, to democracy, and the significance of the American Dream.

The ceremony also consisted of band performances and a chorus that sang the anthems of each military branch.

“I was singing along with them! Sure, oh sure, those songs. I’ve known all the service songs. I don’t know all the words to all of them, but oh yeah, yeah, makes you feel proud. Makes you feel proud to be an American,” said Wolgemuth.

Sympathizing with what the students are going to be faced with in their lifetime compared to what he was confronted with in his generation, he had some advice to offer.

“The best thing I could say is read and listen to what’s going on, because today there is so much information out there, so much of it is false, that it’s more important today for students to really concentrate on learning, and listening, and being aware of what’s going on around them,” said Wolgemuth.

Having been stationed at Dover AFB from 1956-1964, his attendance at the ceremony not only filled his heart with pride, but also a sense of belonging.

“No matter where you are in the country, you get into a military base, you feel like you’re home,” said Wolgemuth. “That’s what I feel like when I go into the base here. It’s home, you know?”