February 7, 2023
HARRISON COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) – From the coal mine to Korea.
Jay Kolenc was 20-years-old when a letter from President Truman told him to report to the draft board in Steubenville 1951. He spent two years in the Army and five more more in the reserves, all with a young family back home. For nine-months, Jay Kolenc was in combat in Korea, helping its people fight for their freedom. Before that he was taken away from his job in the coal mines to join the Army. He said most people in the area who were drafted went to Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia or somewhere on the East Coast. Kolenc was sent to Camp Roberts in California.
“I trained with the 7th Armored Division, with the 33rd Armored Engineers on the Mojave Desert.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
That was across the country and too far away for Kolenc to come home on leave before he went overseas.
“They gave me $14 to travel with, but I had 6,00 miles to travel, so the $14 did do it. I didn’t get a furlough. So, I went directly to Camp Stoneman, which I had to get there early. Middle of the night I was wakened up and put on an airplane and flew to Japan.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
Kolenc was then abruptly taken to Korea and became part of a replacement battalion.
“In a ship and made an amphibious landing in Incheon. So, that’s where I stepped foot in the Republic of South Korea was in Incheon.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
Since he had prior experience with high explosives in the coal mines, that became Kolenc’s job. He said a lot of what happened to him he left in Korea and doesn’t talk about to this day.
“War is not a pleasant situation.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
Those who have followed Veterans Voices for years will remember the name Fred B. McGee. It turns out that McGee and Kolenc were good friends growing up. When McGee was wounded during the Korean War, Kolenc said he was only a few hills away, but he didn’t know that until he returned home. While he was in Korea serving, his life changed back at home.
“We were married and had a wife and a little daughter and my wife was three-months pregnant when they drafted me. So, my son was born when I was in Korea.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
Kolenc sayid communicating with his family was difficult, especially because his son had some health issues as a young child.
“You’d gotten mail, but the biggest part of that was blanked out. There was only so much you could say about your positions.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
When his time in Korea was over, Kolenc came home and went right back to work. He said he did his job for his country, and he’s proud of it.
“When you take that obligation you hold that right hand up to protect that constitution of the United States of America, that just don’t end when you’re out of the service. That stays with you till you take your last breath and to defend that flag and protect that flag.” – JAY KOLENC, VETERAN
Kolenc kept his mining job for a while, but also went to police officer training. Throughout his life he worked closely with local judges, the late Sheriff Fred Abdalla and the BCI. He is a member of several veteran organizations and remains involved with the UMWA. Kolenc and his wife were married for 46-years and had four children.
Written by: Kathryn Ghion