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'Touch their spirit one more time': Korean War vet's unique connection to nine Vietnam veterans

DC Honor Flight memorial wall
Posted at 7:24 PM, May 26, 2023

WASHINGTON — As you walk along the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C., you can hear the sound of pencils rubbing across paper as those who served with or family of the particular veteran whose name is engraved in the stone creates a rubbing copy of the name to take with them.

On a recent Honor Flight Tri-State trip, Korean War veteran Paul Dickmann wandered along the wall in search of five names.

“I’m getting up in years and it was important to me while I was here,” Dickmann said.

With a small notepad in hand one by one he found each name.

The five names are out of a list of 20 soldiers killed in the Vietnam War who came back home to Boone County.

One of the men was Sergeant Charles Fleek of Petersburg, Kentucky. The Medal of Honor recipient jumped on top of a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. Fleek's medal is embedded in the wall of the Boone County courthouse for all to see.

Although Fleek was from Kentucky, he enlisted through a Cincinnati recruitment office.

“He's listed as a Congressional Medal of Honor winner in Ohio, but we know in Kentucky he's one of our boys,” Dickmann said.

The other names he searched for were men from Hebron and Petersburg. All five were people he had a close connection with, but did not know. The connection was only made possible by Dickmann's post-service work as a funeral director.

“I had the privilege of conducting services for nine of them, so while we're here I’m saying hello and goodbye one more time,” he said.

Having made the connection his journey ends a decades-old mission to continue to honor these men.

“Touch their spirit one more time,” he said. “I've touched their bodies, now I'm touching their spirit."

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