Korean War veteran reminds people to wave the flag this Veterans Day
Nov 3, 2023, 4:05 AM
(KTAR News Photo/Ben Brown)
This is the second of seven articles highlighting the grand marshals of the 2023 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade.
PHOENIX — Jerry Hecht graduated from the University of Pharmacy College in 1952 but felt a calling to serve, so he enlisted in the United States Navy.
He quickly rose through the ranks and found himself aboard the USS Duncan as the destroyer’s engineering officer from 1953 to 1956.
“We took a lot of pride in our ship,” Hecht said. “We had a nickname, the Galloping Ghosts of the Korean Coast.”
Hecht served during the height of the Korean War, operating off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.
“We got hit by a shell in Korea when we were firing over there,” Hecht explained. “We were detached at times to look for downed pilots whose planes went to the drink. And of course, most of the time in the following two years, it was a matter of cruising between China and mainland China and Taiwan.
“That’s the only reason Taiwan is still there, because we took a defensive stand and said you’re not going to do it. Hopefully, they’ll maintain that stand today or the Chinese will be there.”
Hecht received numerous accolades for his service, including the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with one star and the China Service Medal.
He said all the recognition goes to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice – Hecht hopes those still missing in action in North Korea can finally come home.
“I saw the other day they estimate 5,000 men and women who served our country are dead in North Korea,” Hecht said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get them out, but we have to get them out and bring them back to what I call Hallowed Grounds.”
Hecht said he was honored to be recognized as one of seven Grand Marshals for the annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, adding that “it calls attention to those who served.”
“Wave the flag, don’t let people in this country forget who they are and what we have done,” Hecht said. “We are in the same family, it’s the American family and it’s not a bad thing to be a patriot. It’s not a bad thing to serve in the military.”