Robert “Bob” Swanson (third from right), the Kosciusko County Veteran of the Month for July, stands with his family during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday. He and his wife, Phyllis (third from left), celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this year. Photo by David Slone
Robert “Bob” Swanson (third from right), the Kosciusko County Veteran of the Month for July, stands with his family during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday. He and his wife, Phyllis (third from left), celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this year. Photo by David Slone
On July 19, the Kosciusko County Veteran of the Month turns 88.

Two of Robert “Bob” Swanson’s years were spent serving his country in the Army during the Korean War.

Rich Maron, Kosciusko veterans affairs officer, told the county commissioners Tuesday that Swanson was born July 19, 1931, in Warsaw. He grew up and spent most of his life in Atwood, and graduated from high school there in 1950.

Swanson owned and operated a Standard gas station in Etna Green until his draft notice arrived in November 1951.

“I just asked him, I said, ‘How old were you when you owned that?’ He said he was 18 years old. I said, ‘How did you pull that off? That’s a lot of bottles.’ He said, ‘I knew the banker,’” Maron said, eliciting laughter from those at the meeting.

In January 1952, Swanson left with a group of young soldiers from Los Angeles, Calif., for Schofield Army Base in Hawaii, which is where he did his basic training.

One out of three from his class went to Korea. Swanson was “one of the fortunate ones” and sent to Alaska, assigned to the 867th Artillery Unit, according to Maron.

“Bob had a gift that would soon be discovered. He was a pretty good barber and he would be quickly delegated as the unit’s barber,” Maron said. “Bob recalled his appreciation and sorrow for the men and women who laid down their lives in the Korean War. It’s affected him to this day.”

Swanson served “faithfully and honorably” for two years until his discharge at the end of January 1954. On April 23, 1954, he married his sweetheart, Phyllis Ailer.

Swanson attended barber college in Indianapolis. Russ Knoop owned a barber shop just below the cigar store and Knoop hired Swanson to join him. Swanson remained there for 12 years.

In 1966, Swanson decided to build a 26,000-layer chicken house and farmed it for 12 years.

Years later, Swanson took a position with Bruce Petro as a car salesman where he remained for 24 years, retiring in 1996.

Bob and Phyllis have five sons – Greg, Mike, Scott, Jeff and David – along with six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Given an opportunity to speak, Swanson said, “I feel very privileged. I feel like there are a lot of others that are more deserving than me, but I am so thankful for it and everyone involved in this. Thank you very much.”

Maron said, “We understand that there’s a lot of people that went and were wounded, hurt and lost their lives. But we also thank God for those that were willing to do the very same. And just because they didn’t lose their life doesn’t mean that they weren’t prepared in harm’s way.”

He said Swanson told him he’d be gone in a second if his name had been called to serve in Korea.

“So it’s the everyday ladies and gentlemen in our county that laid down their lives that we’re trying to take time and say thanks,” Maron said before reading the certificate presented to Swanson from the county.