Veteran, 95, honors fallen brother

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published July 28, 2021

 In World War II, Henry Freeman’s brother, Howard Freeman, was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Henry Freeman is seen here at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument dedication last month in Clinton Township.

In World War II, Henry Freeman’s brother, Howard Freeman, was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Henry Freeman is seen here at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument dedication last month in Clinton Township.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MACOMB COUNTY — When Henry Freeman attended a dedication ceremony last month in Clinton Township, it wasn’t just as a veteran. It was as a Gold Star Family member.

Freeman, who turns 95 this month, took part in the June dedication ceremony for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.

A Gold Star Family member is the immediate family member of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.

His brother, Lt. Sgt. Howard D. Freeman, was in the Marines and was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima in March 1945. The late Freeman was 23 and part of the 25th Marines.

“He was a gunnery sergeant in the 4th Marine Division,” Freeman said. “No one told us how it happened. I heard he was killed by a sniper.”

At the dedication, Freeman read his brother’s name and then placed a flower at the base of the monument. Howard Freeman was one of many names that were read aloud, followed by the ringing of a bell.

Henry Freeman, who resides in Warren, said his brother was a platoon leader in the heavy weapons company.

Born in Illinois, Henry Freeman was drafted into the Army in January 1945. Previously, he volunteered for the Marines in 1942, who told him to “go home and grow up.”

Prior to being drafted, the young Freeman sold newspapers, which is how he stayed informed of what was happening around the world, especially as it pertained to World War II.

As part of the infantry, Freeman was sent to the Philippines in the spring of 1945.

Another of Freeman’s brothers served in the Navy in World War II and was missing in action.

“I guess they didn’t want to waste another Freeman,” he said.

During the war, he was shipped to a quartermaster outfit, offloading supplies.

“We did that with the idea we would be invading Japan,” Freeman said.

Known as Operation Downfall, there was a proposed Allied plan for the invasion of the Japanese home islands near the end of World War II. The planned operation was canceled when Japan surrendered following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the interwar period for Freeman, from 1947 until the start of the Korean War in 1950, he worked with the military in Illinois, then joining the National Guard.

His unit, the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry Division, 279th Infantry Regiment, arrived in the eastern part of Korea in 1952.

As master sergeant, Freeman was a communications chief, responsible for maintaining communications with the battalion.

“We hung the lines sending patrols out to engage the enemy and find out what they’re doing. You’re usually receiving some kind of fire, either artillery or mortar fire,” he said. “We worked with wire radio and signal communication. We would get attacked once in a while by navy aircraft.”

Freeman remembers being in Korea when the armistice was signed, 68 years ago this month.

“I was in the trenches when they were still shooting at 10 at night,” he recalls. “We quit firing at 4 in the afternoon, but the Chinese and North Koreans kept artillery firing. At 10 o’clock, it all quit July 27, 1953.”

Freeman arrived back in America around September 1953.

“I wouldn’t want anybody else to fight in that country in those conditions,” Freeman said when asked what he wants younger folks to remember about the Korean War. “We never could find good conditions, and it didn’t turn out any better in Vietnam, fighting in the damn jungle.”

After the Korean War, Freeman remained in the service in a reserve role until his retirement in the mid-1980s as a sergeant first class.

During the Vietnam War, he was employed at what is now the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, TACOM. He retired with 41 years of combined service.

For World War II, some medals he received were the Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. For the Korean War, he earned a Combat Infantry Badge, a Bronze Star and campaign medals.

Freeman married Betty, now 92, in 1947. The couple moved to Michigan in 1964, primarily residing in Sterling Heights. They have two children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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