Kewaunee veteran receives simple, meaningful Veterans Day gift
KEWAUNEE – While veterans across the country were being recognized and honored at ceremonies and special events Sunday to mark Veterans Day, Lloyd Nimmer was given something that might not mean much to most people — but means a whole lot to him.
Nimmer has a wall in his apartment covered with photographs, medals, insignia and other items and mementos from his 33 years of service to this country. Among the photos is one of him, taken when he first joined the U.S. Army as an 19-year-old in 1951, and another from the year he retired from the service, 1984.
His granddaughter, Karlee Horlacher of Mukwanago, took copies of those two photos with her on a trip to France and had a shot taken of her holding the photos on Omaha Beach in Normandy, one of the major landing sites for D-Day in World War II. Horlacher emailed the new photo back home, and Brenda Nimmer, Lloyd's daughter-in-law, framed it and presented it to Lloyd on Veterans Day.
That might be worth more to Lloyd Nimmer than any ceremony.
"I can't put it into words," Nimmer said, struggling to avoid choking up, when asked what the photo meant to him. "Thankfulness, appreciation. It was a total surprise."
The 86-year-old, lifelong Kewaunee resident didn't serve during WWII, but he said as a longtime serviceman, he always wanted to visit Omaha Beach, but never had the chance. He said he might still be interested, but wished his wife of 56 years, Marianne, who died last year, was alive to join him.
Now, at least, his image has visited the landmark.
Nimmer served in the Korean War. He joined the Wisconsin National Guard, serving in Anti-Aircraft Company, Battery D, out of Two Rivers, before being drafted in late 1951 and, after training, shipping out to Korea for active duty the following September.
The training involved working with scout dogs, and once in Korea, Nimmer was assigned to the 38th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon, working with a German shepherd named Rin Tin. Their duties included escorting soldiers and sniffing out the enemy and other dangers near the 38th Parallel, which was the dividing line between North and South Korea before the war, and the site of many fierce battles.
"We'd lead infantry patrols at night, two shifts, 6 (p.m.) to midnight and midnight to 6 (a.m.)," Nimmer said. "The dog could sense 300 yards ahead. You always ran into some conflicts. You didn't know what you were gonna run into on any night. Everything was blacked out. You just expected it every night."
Nimmer said one of his closest calls came within his own camp, when an American soldier, apparently suffering from a mental breakdown, was about to gun down everyone in sight as Nimmer returned from a patrol. Another soldier killed the man before he could fire a shot.
Nimmer wanted to bring Rin Tin back to the states after he was discharged in 1954, but he said the government wouldn't let patrol dogs back into the country, partially because of concerns over diseases. He left Rin Tin behind, a memory that caused him to catch his breath.
"We led a patrol one night, and I introduced myself to one guy," Nimmer said, recollecting one incident. "He said 'what, is the infantry turning into dogs every night?' And I told him 'this dog will probably save your life' … I don't know what happened to (Rin Tin)."
Nimmer's service career didn't end after the Korean War. Back home in Kewaunee, he and Adrian O'Konski, who later became city clerk, formed an Army reserve unit less than a year later, the 88th Field Artillery Battalion. Nimmer went on to serve with several reserve units while working full-time jobs, first at Hamilton Manufacturing in Two Rivers, then at Kewaunee State Bank, from which he retired as vice president.
His reserve units trained in various skills at forts across the country. Nimmer said they were called up several times, once to help distribute food at Ft. McCoy in Monroe County.
Nimmer retired with the rank of 1st Sergeant E-8. He is a member of American Legion Post 29 and VFW Post 3392, both based in Kewaunee, and is a past commander of the Legion post. He was inducted into the Kewaunee High School Wall of Fame in 2007.
Yet after all that, a simple, framed photo of his granddaughter bringing photos of him to a far-away, historic beach moved him.
"You start your military career in '51, then start a reserve unit —" Nimmer said before pausing with another lump in his throat. "This was a real shock to me."
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee veteran receives simple, meaningful Veterans Day gift