An Honored Life
The sixth Southwest Indiana Honor Flight took more than 80 veterans of World War II and the Korean War to Washington D.C., on May 6; but to hear him tell it, no other veteran has lived a life more fortunate than Army veteran Don Tepool, Sr. Tepool and his family are members of Annunciation Parish.
“I lucked out,” Tepool said as he recalled being drafted during the Korean War. “I really was fortunate where I was placed. I was in New York with three other guys on vacation, and when I got back I had my papers, ‘You’re invited to join the Army.’”
After basic training Tepool was accepted into a leadership program. “I went down and interviewed and passed the test, but then they said after you get your lieutenant bars you have to stay on for 24 more months.”
That didn’t set well with the young soldier who had a sweetheart waiting back in Evansville. He had plans to marry Andrea Kiefer,whom he had met at a dance held at Holy Trinity Parish.
“Before Holy Trinity Church burned, on the first floor there was the ‘She he she he’ club,” Tepool tells with a grin. “The top two floors were classrooms. The westside kids, that’s where we went.”
Tepool was part of the first graduating class of Mater Dei, while Andrea was a Memorial student. “It was a long walk from Memorial to St. Boniface,” he said. “If I missed the bus, it was a long walk.”
Because of his decision to decline officer training, Tepool was sent back to be included in the pool of soldiers to be shipped overseas. There were 195 soldiers in the class: five went to Europe, the rest went to Korea. Tepool was one of the five.
“I was really lucky,” Tepool said.
He joined the replacement company in Germany. “I was an M.P. in Frankfurt, Germany, which was really a fun deal. The cafeteria had big crystal chandeliers; I had never eaten in a place like this before!”
Don’s hardworking spirit and positive attitude did not quit when he returned to the states. He and Andrea started a family while he worked full-time and attended the University of Evansville.
“I probably wouldn’t have gone to college if not for the G.I. bill,” Tepool said. His daughter, Cindy, was born during finals. “That worked for me; the professor felt sorry for me. He gave me a great grade, and I didn’t have to take the test.”
Tepool’s family, including Cindy, encouraged him to apply for the opportunity to participate in the Honor Flight. Throughout the day, the 82 veterans were greeted with parades and celebrations, followed by tours of the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and Arlington Cemetery to witness the changing of the guard ceremony. Tepool was joined by his son Don Jr. on the trip. Three generations of Tepool’s family were at the Evansville Regional Airport to welcome him home, joining thousands of others with posters, signs and flags.
“He’s enjoyed life more than anyone I know,” Andrea said. Although most veterans returned weary from the frenzied schedule,Tepool wasn’t a bit tired and relished the warm welcome back to Evansville. His family agreed that participating in the Honor Flight will go down as one of his greatest life experiences.
Honor Flight was formed in 2014 and serves 14 counties in Indiana, including Vanderburgh, Posey, Warrick and Gibson counties. Trips are scheduled to take local veterans to Washington D.C. twice a year. To register for the flight or to become a volunteer, visit http://honorflightsi.org/.