Korean war vet honored for his service just hours before his death

WOOD LAKE — Korean War veteran Harlan Schwerin was honored the morning of May 21 in his hospital bed at Avera Morningside Heights. Staff members presented him with a flag pin and a thank-you card for his service to country.

Later that day, Schwerin died at the age of 90, having been haunted by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for much of his adult life.

Schwerin wasn’t one to seek out personal glory, his daughter Kay Wothe, said Thursday. However, he would want to encourage younger veterans to seek the help they need with PTSD, as he had years ago.

Back then, PTSD hadn’t been labeled yet, and it was unheard of to ask for help. People who did ask for help often carried a stigma about them because no one understood what they were going through, Wothe said.

“He would want to help other veterans get the help they deserve,” she said. “He wants younger veterans not to be stopped from getting the help they need and to increase awareness through education.”

Wothe shared the veteran’s story Thursday and showed pictures of memorabilia the family had on display for the pinning ceremony earlier in the week.

Born in 1927, Schwerin was about to be drafted when he turned 18, Wothe said, so he decided to enlist. Being a farm boy and having worked with his father on the family farm, Schwerin was quite a catch for the U.S. Army.

Some history books have noted that farm boys already knew how to shoot a gun, drive a standard transmission truck and generally did what they were told because they had a good work ethic.

Leaving behind his fiancee, Carol Brockman, he was swept off to Korea.

On Schwerin’s first tour of duty, he was stationed immediately on the front lines, Wothe said.

Within the first days of his deployment, Wothe said, her father’s entire unit was killed by enemy fire, with the exception of Schwerin and the machine gunner whose cooling tank Schwerin carried.

The two soldiers were able to escape into the wilderness where they caught up to another infantry unit and were attached to them instead of going back to base like they normally would have, Wothe said, if the fighting hadn’t been so “hot.”

With the new unit, Schwerin lived off C Rations and camped out during the rest of that battle.

Schwerin suffered hearing loss and caught schrapnel in his knee during this tour of duty.

“He was a smart man,” Wothe said. “When I was 14, he sought medical help for the PSTD.”

By then veterans hospitals had sprung up in St. Cloud and Montevideo making easier access to the right kind of health care.

“It was helpful,” Wothe said, “to get that care from people familiar with it and in a group setting where there were others who’d been through it, too.”

Wothe’s parents were married in 1953 when he returned home from the war.

The Schwerins lived in Alabama for a year while Harlan Schwerin finished his military stint. They lived on the base and Carol worked as a nurse in a nearby hospital.

In 1954, the the Schwerins returned to Minnesota to live by Wabasso to begin farming. In 1964 they moved to Wood Lake to settle on the family farm.

Schwerin farmed on the homesteaded farm until his retirement in 1998. He took great pleasure in shared stories, card games, fishing and fun conversations with his 11 grandchildren. He and his wife developed close communities of friends at a lake retreat near Glenwood over many years and in Alamo, Texas, during the 15 winters spent there.

Schwerin’s survivors include his three sons, Clayton, Roger and Dave; his daughter, Kaye Wothe; 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Services for Schwerin will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Posen Township, rural Wood Lake. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday, June 1, at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church with a prayer service at 7 p.m. and will continue one hour prior to the service at the church on Saturday.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today