Hometown Hero: Ken Wendt

By Terry Kovarik | terry.kovarik@wearegreenbay.com

Published 12/13 2013 06:00PM

Updated 12/31 2013 06:39PM

STURGEON BAY, WI. (WFRV) A year out of high school in 1954, Ken Wendt and two friends knew military service was likely in their future. So they decided not to wait.

"One day we were sitting around and we said why don't we go to Green Bay and enlist? And I said--"Gee I hate to put in three years," Wendt remembers. "And he (the recruiter) let us enlist for two years."

Two days later Wendt and his friends were en route to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. After basic training, Wendt would be dispatched to Germany with the 37th Engineer Group with war planners in the S-2 section.

"Like the Operation: Desert Storm" That's the type of things we'd do," Wendt said. "Then when they went out on maneuvers they'd act that out because there wasn't an actual war on at the time."

After his service ended, Wendt tried different jobs and found a home at Smith and Schartner Trucking. He bought part-ownership in 1961, retired in 2000 and sold off his interest earlier this year. But for most of that time, Wendt has been an American Veterans or AMVETS member. He got involved after meeting some disabled veterans in Milwaukee.

"Went up to the tenth floor and saw those paraplegics laying there. Somebody had to turn them over. Somebody had to pick them up, get them to the bathroom, all that kind of stuff," Wendt recalled. "And I thought--"These guys need help."

Wendt made regular visits to various veterans' facilities, including the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King. He's helped raise money for various needs with help from a network of friends.

"Dave Ripp at "The Nightingale". Dave, I've got a party I want to throw. Well how much to you need? Three-hundred, five hundred," said Wendt. "And he writes out a check. He don't ask no questions."

Ken Wendt has literally put his money where his mouth is when it comes to helping veterans. When fundraising efforts for the Door County Veterans Memorial fell short, he and three friends took out 18-thousand dollars in personal loans to make sure it got done."

Wendt has also chaperoned "Old Glory Honor Flights", received numerous citations for his service and was appointed to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. But Wendt says all are just tokens compared to the real honor he gets.

"The satisfaction of seeing those guys smile and knowing that they're being taken care of," Wendt said. "That's what's really important."

Local 5's Terry Kovarik has the story.

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