As a young man raised in the community of Rich Fountain, Stanley Neuner and his brother occasionally helped their father at his local garage, where he provided services ranging from the repair of vehicles and tractors to welding and electrical work. This experience, he said, helped instill in them at a young age the desire to be of service to others.
"Our home was next to the garage and there were times when someone would knock on our door after hours to have us pull a car out of the ditch, or someone would run out of gas early in the morning and would need our help," he noted.
Graduating from Fatima High School in nearby Westphalia in 1952, Neuner soon made the decision to take the first steps in pursuing his dream of becoming a jet pilot for the United States Air Force.
"A schoolmate and I decided to meet with the Air Force recruiter in Jefferson City on a specific date to take the tests to enlist," Neuner explained. "My friend didn't show up, but I went ahead and took the tests and scored much higher than many other applicants, which placed me toward the top of the enlistment list."
Weeks later, while working at the Tweedie Footwear Corporation in Jefferson City, he was contacted by a recruiter who informed him an enlistee had failed their physical. The recruiter went on to explain they needed a replacement for him. Without hesitation, Neuner chose to go in his stead.
"I took my physical in St. Louis in August (1952) and was on a train the next day headed to Lackland Air Force Base (San Antonio, Texas) for my basic training," he said. "After that, I was sent to a 36-week Radio Repairman Course at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, because a fellow airman suggested I complete specialty training since I would have something to fall back on if I washed out of the pilot program."
During his advanced training, Neuner was walking out of the Base Exchange — located next to the flight line — when he witnessed a jet explode shortly after take-off, killing the pilot. That event, he affirmed, changed his mind about becoming a pilot.
Following his graduation from the radio repair school in the summer of 1953, he received orders for Korea and soon transferred to Chinhae Air Base. Arriving weeks after the Korean Armistice Agreement, he remained at the base for the next five months, repairing radio and electronic equipment while enjoying the Spartan accommodations of living in squad tents.
"When I first arrived in Korea, I remember thinking how primitive everything appeared," he recalled. "I was shocked to see children in pants made from Army blankets and oxen pulling carts."
In early 1954, he was transferred to the 75th Air Depot Wing at Pusan East (K-9) Air Base near Pusan, Korea. He and his fellow airmen endured the weather challenges presented by the monsoon season while supporting communications for all of South Korea, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the final weeks of his overseas duty assignment approached, he was given the option of selecting a base back in the United States. Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois, rose to the top of the list since it was close to his hometown and he had served there previously.
"I was transferred to Scott in the fall of 1954 and was chosen to serve as an instructor (for theory and maintenance of radio)," he said. "Since most of the instructors had some college education, I began attending night classes at a local junior college. I finished my four years of service there."
Receiving his discharge in August 1957, Neuner returned to Mid-Missouri and went on to graduate cum laude with his Bachelor of Science degree from Lincoln University in 1961. The same year he finished college, he embarked upon his married life with his fiancée, Teresa.
After graduation, he was employed briefly in Kansas City for an insurance company but returned to Mid-Missouri in 1962. He then enlisted in the Missouri National Guard with the communications section of the 735th Maintenance Company.
Throughout the next several decades, he was employed full-time with the National Guard in their Electronics Section and eventually became a warrant officer in the office of the Military Support to Civil Authorities with the state headquarters in Jefferson City.
"One of the most rewarding positons I had with the Guard was with the Operations and Training Section as the Military Schools Manager," Neuner said. "I was able to positively impact the careers of many soldiers by ensuring they received the courses they needed to succeed."
In line with his experiences in education, Neuner was asked to complete a 30-day project for National Guard Bureau to rewrite the G.I. Bill regulations as they applied to members of the National Guard; he finished the project in eight days. He retired from the National Guard in 1994 as an Educational Service Officer, having achieved the rank of chief warrant officer four.
As the father of three children acknowledged, the military "has offered me a rewarding career" and provided opportunities to apply the lessons instilled by his father decades ago in an effort to help others.
"Growing up, we were always receiving calls at my father's garage from people that were in need of assistance and we did whatever we could to help them," he said. "Years later, when I was serving in the Air Force, I was able to continue helping others when passing the 'torch of knowledge' in training other airmen."
He added, "We were consistently told, 'If the student failed to learn, the instructor failed to teach.'" Pausing, he concluded, "It was a rewarding experience to learn that you had helped someone learn a new skill or to prepare for another career."
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.