ELBURN – Bob Funderburke recalls his 18th birthday, serving with the U.S. Army in the Korean War. He said he spent it on the top of a hill, facing an enemy attack.
Yet, he still considers himself to be fortunate. He survived the experience, and he recovered from injuries suffered during his service.
“A lot of guys in my outfit were not that lucky,” he said.
The Elburn resident, who turns 82 years old today, said he doesn’t celebrate Veterans Day as he once did, as he has become upset over issues, such as the trade deficit with China and other foreign policy issues. He said the national anthem “used to bring tears to my eyes,” but it does not anymore.
Veterans Day is Monday, and though Funderburke said he has issues with the way the country is run, he said he considers every U.S. veteran to be a colleague. He said he was 17 years old when he joined the Army, and he said he “never dreamed I would end up in combat or in Korea.”
He vividly remembered the day he was wounded. He said he somehow knew it was going to happen, but he wasn’t afraid. He said he knew he would be hurt but not killed. He said he was fighting on a hillside, which he said was common in his experience. He said enemy troops were advancing toward his company, and “we knew we were in for it.” He said they were “totally surrounded.”
“Somehow, I knew I was going to be wounded, but I knew I was going to live,” he said. He said he spotted an enemy soldier who went to fire at him but could not, as the weapon jammed.
“When he raised his weapon, I thought, ‘Oh boy, I’ve bought it now,’ ” he said. Eventually, he said, he was shot at, and Funderburke’s helmet was hit. It was knocked off his head. He ran, and said he was hit by some shrapnel.
“At first, I didn’t feel it,” he said. “Then I realized, I was wet, and I was bleeding pretty bad.”
He said “by pure dumb luck” he walked into an aid camp and eventually was flown out. He said he was operated on by a surgeon, a female, which he thought was unusual. He said she did a wonderful job. He said he then was expected to be sent back to the front lines, but his company commander, who “was a great guy,” wouldn’t allow it.
“I’ll never forget him,” Funderburke said.
He eventually finished his service and returned to the United States. Funderburke originally was from Missouri, south of St. Louis, but said he couldn’t wait to get out of there. He said there was “nothing left to stay for,” and he moved to the Chicago area. He ended up in Elburn, he said, because he wanted to move to the country, and he couldn’t find the right place in Geneva, St. Charles or Batavia. His wife since has passed.
His time in the service was rough, he said, but he told of a close friend who was right next to him one day and was hit in the leg by artillery. His friend was severely injured. He said he never found out what happened to his friend, a man Funderburke said had “a nice personality. You couldn’t help but like him. I was really sick when that happened to him.”
As to why his friend was hit and he wasn’t, Funderburke said it “just simply wasn’t my time. ... I feel that God was protecting me, and to this day, I haven’t figured out why.”