Howard Trembly is a 61-year old United States Army Veteran residing in Wheatfield. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Charles and Maime Alumbaugh before relocating to Merrillville at a young age.
After graduating Merrillville High School in 1977, Trembly volunteered for the U.S. Army. At that time, there were only three viable options for a decent paying job: join the military, become employed at the mills, or pursue a higher education at a university. Pursuing a college education was not an option for Trembly as he did not like school to begin with, nor did he have the financial means to do so. Trembly chose the military with the hope of doing something different.
His mother and youngest brother, Dennis, were against the idea wholeheartedly. Tragically, the family had already suffered the loss of one son and brother, Roy, who died while serving in the U.S. Navy. Two other children, Ivan and Paul, who were subjected to the draft, were serving in the Army and Navy, respectively. The fear of losing another loved one was petrifying for his mother. Despite their fears, he pushed on to have a better life.
Trembly completed basic and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. His MOS (military operating specialty) was a wheel mechanic. “It was a hell hole. Every place you walked was covered in sand. At times, the sand got in your mouth and ground between your teeth. Everyone had to get up at the crack of dawn. Drill sergeants were yelling at you from the time you got up until the time you went to bed,” explained Trembly. These forceful tactics continued until the “individual” was gone, replaced with an obediant soldier that followed all of the rules, customs, uniformity and disciple as one unit.
After completing his training, Trembly tried to get assigned to Fort Jackson, but due to Fort Jackson being the epicenter for WACs (Women’s Army Corps) he was denied a permanent assignment. Basically, at that time, Fort Jackson was the headquarters for basic training and the women’s army, only: mixing men and women on a permanent basis was not a current goal.
Meanwhile, during this transitional phase from advanced individual training and his next assignment, Trembly’s marital relationship came to an end. Because he found himself newly single, he volunteered for an overseas tour as a way to see the world.
Trembly was assigned to the Mojave Desert for desert training, directly thereafter; he learned that his ex-wife was pregnant. Immediately, Trembly asked for a deferment from his overseas tour of duty to be available for the birth of his son. Though a temporary deferment was granted, Trembly was assigned to South Korea six months later. “I was heartbroken leaving John. I wouldn’t get to see him for over a year and it just broke my heart,” said Trembly.
Trembly was assigned to South Korea with the 2nd Division at Camp Casey, which was a maintenance and police battalion camp located across from the supply and transportation camps. His duties there were similar to any job stateside, with the exception of PT (physical training).
Trembly’s biggest worry was doing PT in the morning when the “honey truck” was going by. The “honey truck” was an open sewer truck. “The smell would make you sicker than a dog and you had to keep running while the truck passed,” said Trembly. The worst part of being there, for Trembly, was not being able to go home. “It cost too much to call home, let alone go home.”
Soldiers banded together and became a family because they were all in the same situation. Letters were the only form of communication.
One of Trembly’s most memorable experiences there was his tour of the Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). The DMZ encompasses the border between North and South Korea. Soldiers patrol each side, barbed wire and land mines filling the space between. The DMZ was created as a result of the Armistice Agreement in 1953. “We were given a big, long lecture before arriving at the DMZ. They told us about the building we put up and how the North Koreans put up a bigger building on their side.
Inside the building where the peace talks were held there was a line drawn down the center of the room. You could not cross this line. You could not talk. You could not wave. The North Koreans used these gestures as propaganda to bolster their own soldiers, saying that the U.S. was weak for talking, for waving. It felt weird, knowing that you were that close to a communistic country. That they could blow you up at any given time,” said Trembly.
“Outside, just north of the building, you can see the ‘Bridge of No Return,’” he said. This is what separated families. Directly after the peace talks were concluded, families were allowed to cross the bridge, but only one way, one time. No one has crossed that bridge since.
Since then, families from North Korea are continually trying to escape into South Korea any place they can along the border. In comparison to North Korea, South Korea has an abundance of food. In North Korea, the military drafts children that are 8 and 9 years of age, and food is scarce. “Today, the dilapidated bridge stands as a stark reminder of what happens when people refuse to compromise,” explained Trembly.
The biggest event that occurred during Trembly’s enlistment was the assassination of President Park, the President of South Korea, by a cabinet member. It was discovered directly thereafter that the assassin was an undercover North Korean. All of the military camps were put on full alert. Soldiers were forbidden to leave the compound. Three short days later the assassin was hung, publicly, in downtown Seoul, South Korea.
After returning stateside, Trembly completed his enlistment at Fort Knox as a wheel mechanic in field artillery. Once his four years of active duty were complete, Trembly decided not to reenlist so that he could be a father. Throughout his career, Trembly earned the rank of an E5 Buck Sergeant, achieved high honors in grenade and rifle qualifications and an honorable “good conduct” medal was due but the paperwork was never processed before he was discharged.
Today, Howard Trembly is a truck driver for P & C Trucking. He resides in Wheatfield with his wife, Jenny, whom he has been married to for 36 years. He has three children and four grandchildren. He enjoys fishing, home improvement projects and spending quality time with his grandchildren. In the distant future, he plans to retire far away from the cold Indiana winters.