Park City veterans honored by the University of Utah for their service
For the longest time, Carl Workman, a 94-year-old World War II veteran, refused to talk about his time spent overseas.
The Park City native didn’t see a reason to share memories with his family of witnessing his friends getting blown up or helping men who suffered from fatal bullet wounds. To him, it wasn’t worth reliving those moments.
“It doesn’t make you feel any better talking about it,” he said. “But, you don’t ever forget. What I’ve seen — you don’t realize what goes on. I’m lucky to be here.”
And the University of Utah agrees. That is why Workman, along with 10 other veterans, including fellow Parkite Air Force Lt. Col. T.J. Eaton, were honored at the university’s 21st annual Veterans Day ceremony Friday morning where they are given a medallion for their service.
A committee comprised of faculty and community members selects honorees based on their military service and stories of sacrifice, honor, courage and commitment, according to Paul Morgan, director of the University of Utah’s Veterans Support Center.
“It’s a great day for honorees who, in some cases, have never been recognized for their service outside of the military,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a story of unsung heroes and I think it is important for us to pause. There is value in the specific stories of individuals who have done very extraordinary things. And this is far more meaningful than just raising a flag and moving along.”
Morgan said it is difficult selecting only 11 veterans to honor each year.
“The committee feels strongly that anyone who raised their hand and said, ‘I am pledging my life’ is worthy of that honor,” he said. “But, we look for specific stories that are very compelling.”
Like Eaton’s, Morgan said.
Eaton, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, had some close calls during his first combat tour flying bombers from a base in Qatar for the Air Force, according to his biography compiled by the university. His crew earned the title of the Bomber Crew of the Year.
They also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for courage, devotion to duty and extraordinary aerial skill under adverse conditions, the biography states. Eaton’s other awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, three air medals, and three Air Force commendation medals. Eaton was deployed on three more tours.
Eaton is now with the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base.
“The bond that develops between those who share combat is unbreakable,” he said in a release. “It is something that never leaves you.”
Workman found himself reminiscing about his military service in the days leading up to the ceremony. He was drafted into the U.S. Army when he was a junior at Park City High School. He eventually became a heavy mortar crewman and was assigned to a platoon in Saipan in the Pacific theater of WWII in June of 1944.
The next major battle Workman saw was during the invasion of Okinawa, where bullets whizzed by him in all directions and a piece of shrapnel nearly turned into a fatal injury.
“These young kids don’t get it,” he said. “I spent my 21st birthday in a foxhole with water up to my neck while I was fighting the Japanese. I lost 50 pounds during those two months. A lot of my younger grandsons don’t even know what the flag is for.”
Workman appeared appreciative of the recognition, especially as Veterans Day approaches.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
Morgan, a former Marine, said Workman is a “great example” of someone that is worthy of being honored. He praised Workman for his service, particularly at the Battle of Okinawa, which was a historical moment for Marines, he said.
“To read what he did and surviving all of that, it is an amazing story of courage,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing that we like to recognize.”
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The man was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized at the time of his death.